PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers recently arrested a Mexican man who was released from Philadelphia custody on three prior occasions, despite ICE detainers filed with local authorities each time. In addition to the ignored detainers, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office intervened on the alien’s behalf, writing a letter to an immigration judge, which was used as supporting evidence to help get the man released from ICE custody.
The 36-year-old Mexican national has had numerous encounters with local law enforcement and has been arrested at least six times since 2018, for offenses including simple assault, disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering another, aggravated assault, simple assault, possession of an instrument of a crime, recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, robbery, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and failure to appear. Despite the man’s multiple run-ins with local law enforcement and his failure to appear for several hearings related to his criminal proceedings, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office wrote a letter to an immigration judge in York, PA, which was used as supporting evidence to help get him a favorable custody decision and ultimately released from ICE custody.
Despite the support provided by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, he was arrested again by the Philadelphia Police Department and was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, possession of an instrument of a crime and recklessly endangering another person and released from the Philadelphia officials custody, despite the presence of an ICE detainer.
Under federal law, ICE has the authority to lodge immigration detainers with law enforcement partners who have custody of individuals arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens. The detainer form asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE in advance of release and to maintain custody of the alien for a brief period of time so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody. Yet, across the United States, several jurisdictions refuse to honor detainers and instead choose to willingly release criminal offenders back into their local communities where they are free to offend.
Congress has established no process, requirement, or expectation directing ICE to seek a judicial warrant from already overburdened federal courts before taking custody of an alien on civil immigration violations. This idea is simply a figment created by those who wish to undermine immigration enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety.
Sanctuary Policies Put Public Safety at Risk
When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, it negatively impacts public safety. Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations. A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets, the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals who would not have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail. Additionally, once these criminals are out on the street, confirming their whereabouts is often time consuming and resource intensive. Many of our arrest targets are seasoned criminals who are savvy about eluding law enforcement.