The Denver Sheriff’s Department is awash in outrage after failing to honor a detention order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for an illegal immigrant who went on to commit first-degree murder.
The city of Denver has been the location of two recent cases of fatal crimes committed by illegal immigrants who had already found themselves on authorities’ radar. In one of the cases, the Denver County Jail released in December Ever Valles, a 19-year-old Mexican citizen — even though ICE had issued a detainer for Valles. The illegal alien subsequently was charged last week for aggravated robbery and first-degree murder.
“They should not have been on the streets at all. They should have held them.”
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“The detainer wasn’t honored and he was released by the jail … without prior notification,” ICE said in a statement. “Valles is a known gang member whose gang history is documented in the Colorado gang database.”
Although the Denver Sheriff’s Department referred to the murder as a “tragedy,” it still maintained the jail was required to release Valles after he posted bail.
“Denver has never and will never condone dangerous or violent individuals being on our streets, immigrants or not,” the Tuesday statement read, Reuters reported. “However, detaining anyone without a criminal warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The department added that it will remain “focused on enacting policies and practices that protect people’s safety and their rights, including the rights of immigrants.” The city did not distinguish between immigrants and illegal immigrants, or between criminal illegal aliens and illegal aliens.
Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, told LifeZette the department’s claims that illegal immigrants’ rights are violated by complying with ICE’s detainers are “false.”
“They’re saying that the courts have found that ICE detainers are a civil rights violation, and they’re not about to accept them. But that is not a correct interpretation of the law or of how immigration enforcement works,” Vaughan said. “So their misunderstanding of the legal issues around detainers has resulted in what is effectively a sanctuary policy.”
Noting that some courts have ruled on a previous version of ICE’s detainers that is no longer in use as of 2012, Vaughan said those court cases are “no longer relevant.” Adding that it is “perfectly legal” for sheriffs and prisons to comply with an ICE detainer because it doesn’t constitute a “civil rights violation,” Vaughan said the Denver Sherriff’s Department is “just responding to misinformation that has been circulated.”
Although the department said that it doesn’t condone the existence of “violent individuals being on our streets,” Denver Sheriff’s Department spokesman Simon Crittle added in an email to The Denver Post that the department doesn’t proactively “ask people about their immigration status.”
“However, we do ask their place of birth,” Crittle added.
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Vaughan said that she wasn’t surprised that departments such as Denver’s decided to let the two criminal illegal aliens in question go, saying it’s been the city’s policy for years.
“If the state of California asked them to hold somebody because they’re wanted in California, they would do it,” Vaughan said. “But when ICE asks them to hold someone that they want for deportation, they refuse. And the person goes back to the streets and commits horrendous crimes. And the sheriff is liable for that, in my view.”
In a separate incident that recently received public attention, a Honduran-born illegal immigrant who had been arrested twice after he reentered the U.S. illegally following a 2007 deportation killed a young Denver lawyer in an October hit-and-run. Norlan Estrada-Reyes, 27, struck and killed 28-year-old Karina Pulec while driving in a Ford pickup truck Oct. 30. The truck dragged Pulec 50 feet and she died at the scene, The Post reported Wednesday.
Estrada-Reyes, who had been arrested in 2013, was released from jail after he posted bond because federal documents did not specify his case as an enforcement priority.
“As such, the case was not forwarded to the fugitive operations team, an official investigation was not continued and Estrada was not pursued,” the documents read.
But Estrada-Reyes’ run-ins with the law continued.
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In 2014, Estrada-Reyes received a summons on suspicion of driving under the influence, as well as driving without insurance or a license. He completed community service under probation after he pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges. And after all that, Estrada-Reyes — who was never deported a second time — is facing the possibility of two years in prison after he is sentenced Feb. 27 for Pulec’s death.
Although Estrada-Reyes turned himself in Nov. 3 and ICE issued a detainer following an interview with him, the Denver Sheriff’s Department released him at 7 p.m. Nov. 12, several hours after notifying ICE of its intention to do so.
“Due to the Denver (Sheriff’s Department) local policy, the detainer was not honored and Estrada was released from custody to the streets,” federal records stated.
ICE officers ultimately nabbed Estrada-Reyes themselves Dec. 3.
“[Sheriff’s departments] have misinterpreted or misunderstood or are deliberately adopting an incorrect approach to detainers to adopt a policy of not complying with ICE detainers,” Vaughan said. “The inevitable result of that is that criminal aliens that ICE is trying to deport are released and go on to commit more crimes. But it’s really the sheriff’s department that is responsible for this — not ICE.”
As President Donald Trump and his administration ramp up efforts to enforce federal immigration laws, cities such as Denver that fail to cooperate fully with ICE officials may find themselves in the hot seat.
“The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday of two enforcement memos.”The message from this White House and the Department of Homeland Security is that those people who are in this country, who pose a threat to our safety, or who have committed a crime, will be the first to go.”
Under the Trump administration, ICE officials and border patrol agents will be allowed greater latitude to apprehend and deport criminal and potentially dangerous illegal immigrants than former President Obama ever allowed.
In response to Trump’s immigration executive orders, Democratic Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a video statement that if his city’s “law enforcement officers are expected to do the work of federal immigration authorities or violate the constitutional rights of any of our people, we reject that.”
“They’re being overly obstructive of ICE,” Vaughan said. “What they’re doing is they’re providing criminal aliens with civil rights that they don’t have under our Constitution and using that as an excuse to let them go.”
“There are grounds to withhold their federal funding or possibly to charge them with harboring criminal aliens,” Vaughan added. “It’s against federal law to shield criminal aliens from detection by ICE. And they’re certainly opening themselves to consequences … They could also be sued by someone who has been harmed by a criminal alien that they released.”
Denver messed up when they initially allowed Valles and Estrada-Reyes to go free, Vaughan said.
“They should not have been on the streets at all. They should have held them,” Vaughan said. “I’m incredulous that there are still sheriffs in this country who are refusing to cooperate with ICE on a case like this after the … terrible events that have occurred as a result of local law enforcement agencies not honoring ICE. By now they should know what could happen. And when they claim these non-cooperation policies, they’re putting everyone in their community at risk, in addition to obstructing ICE.”