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February 27, 2020Chicago, IL, United StatesEnforcement and Removal, Child Exploitation

Man arrested for sexually assaulting toddler at fast food restaurant should have been turned over to ICE in 2019

Chicago Police Department declined immigration detainer, released aggravated felon

CHICAGO – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continually lodges detainers with Chicago-area law enforcement agencies only to have those detainers declined and the subjects released into the community where they can reoffend.

That’s what happened with the case of Christopher Puente, 34, a citizen of Mexico who is a previously deported aggravated felon illegally present in the United States.

In June 2019, ICE lodged an immigration detainer with the Chicago Police Department on Puente, who has several felony convictions and a prior removal, after he was arrested for theft.

That detainer was not honored and on Feb. 19, 2020, Puente was once again arrested, except this time it was for sexually assaulting a 3-year-old at a fast food restaurant.

“How many more victims must there be before lawmakers realize that sanctuary policies do not protect the innocent?” asked Robert Guadian, field office director of Chicago Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). “Puente should have been in ICE custody last year and removed to his home country. Instead, irresponsible lawmaking allowed him to walk free and prey on our most vulnerable.”

Puente has a long criminal history that includes two felony convictions for forced-entry burglary (2011 and 2017) and forgery (2012).

On Dec. 5, 2014, ERO officers removed Puente to Mexico, pursuant to an administrative removal order as Puente is a convicted aggravated felon due to his previous felony burglary conviction.

Five days later, on Dec. 10, 2014, border agents encountered Puente at the Brownsville, Texas, border crossing. Puente claimed to be a U.S. citizen and presented a birth certificate. Puente was subsequently charged with falsely claiming citizenship and served a notice to appear before an immigration judge. On March 30, 2017, an immigration judge ordered Puente removed, in absentia, as he failed to show up for his immigration hearing.

Puente also goes by the aliases Christopher Adam Puente, Chris Jose Puente and Juan Manuel Lopez (age 41).

On Feb. 20, 2020, ICE filed an immigration detainer with Cook County Jail after his sexual assault arrest.

In Fiscal Year 2019, Cook County declined more than 1,000 detainers.

Since ICE does not have access to standard Illinois law enforcement databases, the agency cannot account for all the aliens who have been arrested, released and arrested for additional crimes.

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 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.

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, 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 ICE has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations. A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets is the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals that wouldn’t 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. Despite the severe challenges that local policies have created for ICE, we remain committed to our public safety mission and we will continue to do our sworn duty to seek out dangerous criminal aliens and other immigration violators. ICE seeks straightforward cooperation with all local law enforcement and elected officials. ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement actions every day in locations around the country as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.

ERO Chicago’s Area of Responsibility: Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin.