DENVER – Despite Colorado’s sanctuary law, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continue to detain and remove unlawfully present criminal aliens as a part of their day-to-day operations to help keep local communities safe. The vast majority of those they arrest are aliens with criminal convictions, and/or criminal charges, and/or aliens with final orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge.
The recently enacted sanctuary law in Colorado prohibits state-based law enforcement officers or probation officers from arresting or detaining criminal aliens solely on the basis of an immigration detainer. What this means for the safety of Colorado citizens is that local law enforcement jurisdictions must release aliens with criminal convictions and/or criminal charges without notifying ICE so they can be placed in removal proceedings. Aliens convicted of serious crimes – sex assault on a child, driving under the influence, and other crimes – now must be released to the streets without notifying ICE so they can re-offend in Colorado’s local communities or elsewhere.
The following individuals’ stories serve as an example of the criminality of those detained by ICE and in some cases, the potential escalation of criminal activity once an alien is released from custody to re-offend:
- Miguel Ramirez Valiente:In August 2005, Miguel Ramirez Valiente, 42, from El Salvador, was encountered by U.S. immigration officials after he illegally entered the United States at Paso Del Norte, Texas. At the time, he claimed he was from Mexico; U.S. immigration officials processed him as an expedited removal and removed him to Mexico the same day.
In April 2011, deportation officers arrested Ramirez Valiente at the Douglas County (Colorado) Jail after he was released on local charges and issued him a notice to appear in immigration court. He was released from ICE custody after posting bond in April 2011. In March 2018, he was convicted of driving under the influence.
An immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review ordered him removed from the United States in absentia in October 2018, and EOIR denied Ramirez Valiente’s request to reopen his immigration case in February 2019. ICE once again arrested Ramirez Valiente on Aug. 9, 2019. He is currently in ICE custody pending disposition of his appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
- Roberto Gutierrez-Hernandez: On Aug. 7, 2019, in Longmont, Colorado, deportation officers arrested Roberto Gutierrez-Hernandez, 59, a citizen of Mexico, who was convicted July 15, 2019, in the 20th Judicial District Court Boulder County of sex assault on a child.
ICE originally lodged a detainer on Gutierrez-Hernandez with Boulder County (Colorado) Jail after he was arrested on local charges in March 2017. Gutierrez-Hernandez was later arrested for sexual assault on a child in November 2017, and ICE lodged another detainer with the Boulder County Jail. However, the jail refused to honor the agency’s detainer a second time. Gutierrez-Hernandez remains in ICE custody pending disposition of his immigration proceedings.
- Brenda Katina Ruiz-Estrada: On June 24, 2019, Brenda Katina Ruiz-Estrada, 38, an illegal alien from Mexico, was transferred to ICE custody from Jefferson County (Colorado) Jail following her arrest on criminal charges. Ruiz has a 2005 criminal conviction for driving while ability impaired. She also has two other misdemeanor criminal convictions on Dec. 13, 2006, and June 21, 2019.
- Joel Ramirez-Mendez: Joel Ramirez-Mendez 48, is a twice-deported criminal alien from Guatemala who was first encountered by immigration officials in December 2006, in New York, following his criminal arrest for violent behavior and resisting arrest. In December 2006, a federal immigration judge issued him a final order of removal. He was removed to Guatemala in January 2007 and again in January 2011. Ramirez-Mendez continued to illegally re-enter the United States to commit a number of crimes. He has an extensive list of criminal arrests and convictions in the United States starting in May 2000.
On May 26, 2017, Ramirez-Mendez was arrested for DUI. On June 15, 2019, he was arrested again on charges of vehicular assault, DUI, leaving the scene, and causing serious bodily injury. He was released on bond June 17, 2019. ICE officers later located and arrested Ramirez-Mendez June 25. He remains in ICE custody the disposition of his immigration proceedings.
- Erik Ramirez-Acuna: A federal immigration judge ordered Erik Ramirez-Acuna, 22, removed to Mexico in absentia Oct. 2, 2018. Deportation officers carried out the judge’s order by removing him via El Paso, Texas, Dec. 7, 2018. In January 2019, Ramirez-Acuna illegally re-entered the United States. ICE officers encountered him in Pueblo, Colorado, Feb. 15, 2019. On May 31, 2019, he was convicted of illegally re-entering the United States after being deported. After he completes his prison sentence, he will be transferred back to ICE custody pending his second removal to Mexico.
- Amilcar Aguilar-Hernandez: Amilcar Aguilar-Hernandez, 23, from El Salvador, has a criminal conviction for felony trespassing and he is currently a suspect in a rape case in Fort Carson, Colorado. He is also currently being prosecuted for orchestrating an escape from the Aurora Contract Detention Facility in Aurora (Colorado).
Detainers serve as a legally authorized request, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely, to continue to maintain custody of an alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes. Pursuant to ICE policy, all ICE detainers are submitted with an accompanying administrative arrest warrant or warrant of removal depending upon the circumstances of the individual case. ICE places immigration detainers when the agency possesses probable cause to believe an alien is removable from the United States.
An alien who illegally re-enters the U.S. after having been previously removed commits a felony, which – depending on an alien’s criminality – is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, if convicted.
When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, it negatively impacts public safety.
Sanctuary Policies Put Public Safety at Risk
- Colorado sanctuary policies prevent law enforcement agencies from honoring ICE detainers so ICE officers can safely arrest criminal aliens. Consequently, ICE officers instead must locate these individuals in neighborhoods and workplaces. In addition to making these targeted arrests more dangerous, ICE officers may also arrest other removable aliens during their encounters.
- It is safer for everyone if ICE takes custody of an alien in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency as opposed to visiting an alien’s residence, place of work, or other public area. Arresting a criminal in the safety, security and privacy of a jail is always the best option.
- When law enforcement agencies fail to honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released into communities, which presents a potential public safety threat. If ICE is not making an arrest at a jail and is forced to locate these criminal aliens in local communities, regardless of the precautions they take, the danger level significantly increases for everyone – our ICE officers, the targeted aliens, and innocent bystanders.