EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Immigration authorities criticized New York City officials for the recent release of a “violent street gang member” from jail, according to statements from Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued Wednesday.
On Sept. 11, the New York Police Department arrested 25-year-old Fernando Olea-Prado, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and self-described leader of the Sureños, or Sur 13, street gang. Police booked him on three counts of robbery, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and possession of stolen property.
ICE officials subsequently lodged an ICE detainer on Olea-Prado, arguing that he had been removed from the country twice in 2013.
A detainer is a written request from ICE for local law enforcement agencies to detain individuals an additional 48 hours after their release date, to provide ICE agents extra time to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody for removal purposes.
As is the case with anyone who had charges dropped, were released on bail or recognizance, were acquitted, or completed a jail or prison sentence, the NYPD released Olea-Prado.
It took less than a month before agents from ICE’s Enforcement Removal Operations arrested Olea-Prado on Oct. 1 in Corona, N.Y.
In announcing the arrest, the ERO field office director in New York questioned city policies that bar local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with ICE.
“Where is the concern for the safety of the citizens that these local politicians were elected to protect?” Thomas R. Decker said in a statement. “It’s reprehensible that local politicians passed a law that allows a twice-removed, violent street gang member to be released from custody to commit more violence in this city.”
Immigrant rights advocates like the National Immigrant Justice Center and the American Civil Liberties, however, argue that the use of immigration detainers raises constitutional concerns. They say detainers are not warrants and do not provide a probable cause for the arrest. In many cases, ICE does not compensate local law enforcement for the additional cost associated with honoring immigration detainers, “creating a significant financial burden on residents.”
Groups say local law enforcement agencies that help enforce immigration laws destroy trust among immigrant communities. The groups say it makes communities less safe by discouraging immigrants from reporting criminal activity or cooperating in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.
ICE says it does not inquire about the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that the agency does not need a warrant to make a civil immigration arrest.
In New York City, the NYPD has declined ICE detainers for years.
Data published on the NYPD website shows that from Oct. 1, 2016, to July 30, 2020, the department received a total of 8,333 detainers and declined all of them. There were, however, some instances in which New York officials shared information with federal immigration authorities.
The New York City detainer law and policy went into effect in 2014. It stipulates that officials can only turn over people convicted of violent and serious offenses within the past five years, and those who are a possible match on the terrorist watch list. The rules also mandate that ICE meet legal requirements, like obtaining a warrant.
Other so-called sanctuary cities include Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
ICE also keeps track of declined detainers, especially those of individuals who commit a crime after their release.
On its website, for example, ICE details a case from Jan. 7, 2018, in which the Los Angeles Police Department arrested a 30-year-old Mexican citizen on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. Local authorities denied the ICE detainer and released the man. Then, on Feb. 26, 2018, LAPD officers arrested the same individual on suspicion of murder. ICE last updated the report on Feb. 15, 2019, when the individual remained in custody, and ICE had issued another detainer.
As for Olea-Prado, he will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
“When you have a criminal alien like Olea-Prado who flouts U.S. immigration laws, coupled with his gang membership, and the safe haven granted by local politicians, it creates a dangerous situation for New York City residents,” Decker said. “That’s why ICE officers must continue removing violent criminals like Olea-Prado.”