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December 2, 2020Baltimore, MD, United StatesEnforcement and Removal

ICE arrests 2 criminal aliens released by Maryland county after detainers not honored

BALTIMORE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested two criminal aliens after their release by Prince George’s County, Maryland, despite each having immigration detainers. Those arrested include a member of MS-13 and a convicted sex offender.

“These arrests are yet another example of a local jurisdiction choosing to release demonstrated public safety threats to the community, rather than honoring lawful detainers and allowing ICE to take custody of these individuals and keep them off of the street,” said Francisco Madrigal, field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Baltimore field office.

On Nov. 19, ICE officers with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Capital Area Task Force arrested Jose Luis Sorto Gomez, 33, a citizen of El Salvador and a known member of MS-13. Sorto has been arrested several times by Prince George’s County between 2016 and 2020, but despite five ICE detainers lodged during that time, was released after each incident.

Sorto was previously identified by ICE in 2015 in McDowell County, North Carolina, where he was in custody pending charges of resisting arrest, assault of a government official and larceny. He was referred for prosecution for illegal reentry and on May 3, 2016, he was convicted and sentenced to 14 months incarceration by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. At the time, Sorto was the subject of active criminal warrants from Prince George’s County for failure to appear and he was transferred to Prince George’s custody following his federal sentence. ICE lodged a detainer with Prince George’s County on July 2, 2016, but Prince George’s County released Sorto into the community. Sorto is in ICE custody pending removal to El Salvador.

On Nov. 20, ICE officers arrested David Alexander Retana-Castellon, 28, a convicted sex offender and citizen of El Salvador, in Hyattsville, Maryland. Retana entered the U.S. in August 2015 near the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and ICE removed him to El Salvador on September 18, 2015. He illegally reentered the country on an unknown date.

On May 17, 2019, the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County convicted Retana of sex offense in the third degree, sentencing him to eight years in prison in which all but three days were suspended, and placed him on three years of probation. On Oct. 9, 2019, ICE officers from the Baltimore field office arrested Retana and turned him over to the USMS for prosecution for illegal reentry, a felony. The magistrate judge granted Retana a pre-trial release. On Sept. 7, 2020, the Prince George’s County Police Department arrested Retana for failing to register as a sex offender and ICE lodged an immigration detainer with the Prince George’s County Detention Center. Oct. 28, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland convicted Retana of illegal reentry, sentenced him to time served, and returned him to Prince George’s County custody. On Nov. 6, 2020, Prince George’s County did not honor the detainer lodged by ICE and released him to the community. Retana is in ICE custody pending removal to El Salvador.

About Detainers

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.

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.

Updated: 02/09/2021