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October 16, 2020Washington, DCUnited StatesEnforcement and Removal

Prince William County ignores federal criminal warrant under new noncooperation policy

WASHINGTON – Officials at the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center (PWMRADC) released an inmate Sept. 29, who was wanted for felony charges of illegal entry, despite an active criminal warrant for his arrest.

On Sept. 28, the Prince William County Police Department arrested Edras Onel Vasquez Perez, 25, an unlawfully present Honduran national, for assault on a family member. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer for Vazquez with the PWMRADC. In addition, on May 8, 2019, a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk, Virginia, issued a criminal arrest warrant for Vasquez for illegal reentry, a felony punishable by up to twenty years’ incarceration. However, the PWMRADC did not honor either the immigration detainer or the criminal warrant and released Vasquez into the community Sept. 29. ICE arrested Vasquez during a targeted enforcement operation in Woodbridge Oct. 7 and transferred him to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for prosecution for illegal reentry.

“Prince William County’s new noncooperation policy ignores common sense public safety policies for the sake of politics, even to the point of ignoring a federal criminal warrant issued by a U.S. District Court,” said Matthew Munroe, acting field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Washington. “ICE officers are sworn federal law enforcement officers who enforce the laws enacted by Congress. When local jurisdictions choose to treat a federal law enforcement agency differently, ignoring lawful detainers and warrants, it puts the public at risk, plain and simple.”

Vasquez arrived as an unaccompanied minor in 2012 and was convicted of assault in Montgomery County, Maryland, and sentenced to 18 months incarceration in October 2016. An immigration judge ordered him removed to Honduras Jan. 11, 2017, and ICE removed him to his home country March 31, 2017.

The new policy bars the Prince William County Jail from cooperating with ICE when officers lodge immigration detainers for individuals in local custody who are in violation of immigration law. Per the policy, the jail can only notify ICE of an impending release for individuals booked in on felony charges. If an individual is charged with a misdemeanor, ICE will not be notified, regardless of whether they have a serious criminal history. Additionally, individuals that have been arrested or convicted for criminal offenses abroad or those that may be wanted by foreign law enforcement authorities could be released back into the community as this information may not be visible to local law enforcement in the U.S.

Prince Willian County previously worked closely with ICE through the 287(g) program. The program allows specially trained jail employees to serve immigration detainers to individuals who have been booked into the jail on local charges if they have established probable cause that they are in violation of immigration law. This allowed the safe transfer of individuals into ICE custody where they could be enrolled in immigration proceedings.

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: 10/19/2020