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Enforcement and Removal
02/18/2020

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ICE arrests drug dealer despite Philadelphia officials' refusal to cooperate

ICE arrests drug dealer despite Philadelphia officials' refusal to cooperate

PHILADELPHIA – On Feb. 12, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested an illegally present Jamaican man, who was released from Philadelphia custody, despite the presence of an ICE detainer filed with local authorities.

On May 24, 2009, Travas Anthony Vassell, 30, was admitted into the United States in New York on a non-immigrant visitor with authorization to remain in the United States until Nov. 23, 2009; However, Vassell failed to lawfully depart the United States as required.

On March 14, 2018, the Philadelphia Police Department arrested Vassell for the criminal offenses of possession with intent to distribute narcotics, possession of narcotics, carrying a firearm without a license, and carrying a firearm in the city of Philadelphia. ICE lodged an immigration detainer with Philadelphia Police Department that same day.

On April 2, 2018, the Philadelphia prison system released him into the community despite the active ICE detainer.

On Oct. 31, 2018, the Court of Common Pleas in the County of Philadelphia convicted Vassell of possession with intent to distribute narcotics, possession of narcotics, carrying a firearm without a license, and carrying a firearm in the city of Philadelphia and sentenced him to six months to 23 months incarceration and a period of three years of probation.

ERO Philadelphia arrested Vassell and he remains in ICE custody pending immigration proceedings before a federal immigration judge.

“Unfortunately, this is another example of how Philadelphia policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns,” said Simona L. Flores-Lund. “ERO deportation officers are committed to enforcing the immigration laws set forth by our legislators, although the City of Philadelphia releases inmates with active ICE detainers back into their community, the women and men of ICE will remain undeterred in its responsibility to find those in violation of immigration law and ultimately have them removed from the country."

About Detainers

ICE lodges detainers on individuals who have been arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens. The detainer 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.

When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission. This negatively impacts public safety and ICE’s efficiency in the apprehension of criminal aliens. Federal immigration laws authorize DHS to issue detainers and provide ICE broad authority to detain removable aliens.

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 don’t honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat.

  • 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/19/2020