The city of San Francisco ignored two detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials for two suspects who then allegedly used a police officer’s stolen gun to kill a man months later, officials confirmed Friday.
Jesus Perez-Araujo, 24, was arrested back in May on suspicion of possessing marijuana. He was charged with the misdemeanor of possessing brass knuckles, which the California Penal Code prohibits individuals from possessing or selling. But when ICE officials requested that San Francisco hold Perez-Araujo for 48 hours following his official release, the city declined and set him loose. Three months later on August 15, Perez-Araujo allegedly aided two other men in killing Abel Enrique Esquivel Jr., a 23-year-old community volunteer at the Central American Resource Center.
“Despite the detainer, local authorities made the decision to release him back into the community without providing any notification to ICE, resulting in another arrest that may have been averted had the city chosen to cooperate with ICE,” ICE spokesman James Schwab told the San Francisco Gate Friday.
Perez-Araujo’s case significantly parallels that of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was accused of murdering Kate Steinle, 32, back in 2015 with a law enforcement officer’s stolen gun in San Francisco. Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant, had previously been deported five times and had seven felony convictions.
But San Francisco carries out sanctuary policies that buck federal immigration enforcement efforts and do not require the city to comply with ICE’s detainer requests unless they adhere to a strict set of criteria. In Perez-Aruajo’s case, the city of San Francisco argued that his run-in with the law three months ago did not fit the criteria necessary, thus allowing the city to refuse its cooperation.
“If ICE had presented us with a criminal warrant, we would have honored it,” San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst told the Gate Friday.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told LifeZette in an email, “It’s an outrageous case” that “is a disaster on so many levels.”
“Setting aside the obvious border security and asylum system failures that enabled them to be living here freely in the first place, the instant issue is the outrageous sanctuary policy of San Francisco, that routinely results in the release of dangerous criminal illegal aliens that ICE is trying to deport,” she said.
“It’s not like San Francisco officials don’t realize that people get killed with these policies — we’ve seen that in several cases before; what’s incredible is that they maintain this policy even as the death toll keeps rising,” Vaughan added. “They have no excuses any more.”
Eighteen-year-old Erick Garcia-Pineda, who reportedly stole the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver from a San Francisco police officer’s car, is accused of joining Perez-Araujo and 18-year-old Daniel Cruz in a robbing spree that culminated with Esquivel Jr.’s being shot and killed. All three suspects were arraigned on Thursday and are being held without bail in jail.
ICE officials revealed that Garcia-Pineda had been wearing a GPS device on his ankle, which allowed the agency to monitor his moves after he was detained back in December. He was released in April pending a deportation hearing in August for which he never showed up, according to the Los Angeles Times. The GPS was removed following a September 3 arrest when the sheriff’s department ignored another detainer request, ICE officials said. Garcia-Pineda was released from jail that same day.
“They are in flagrant defiance of federal law by prohibiting officers from letting ICE know of a criminal alien’s release; there is no legal reason not to comply with ICE’s request; and their city is no safer nor immigrants more trusting of anyone as a result of this politically motivated foolishness,” Vaughan said.
“It can’t be condemned too strongly — they are knowingly putting everyone in the city in harm’s way,” she added. “And this city has the gall to sue the Department of Justice to keep its federal law enforcement funding.”
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made cracking down on illegal immigration, enforcing U.S. immigration laws, and penalizing states and cities with sanctuary policies some of their administration’s priorities.
But a federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration’s quest to withhold federal funds from states and cities that implement sanctuary policies until Chicago’s lawsuit against the administration is resolved. The California Legislature also considered a bill Friday that would block immigration detainers and impose even further restrictions upon jails considering notifying ICE about a suspect’s pending release.
“Add to that the fact that an immigration judge … allowed Garcia-Pineda to be freed on an electronic monitoring bracelet while pursuing a bogus asylum claim, and it’s not hard to see why people keep trying to come to this country illegally, and why they flock to California,” said Vaughan. “Advocacy groups keep pushing for more of these alternatives to detention, but this is one big reason why they should be limited to certain very narrow circumstances.”
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Andrew Satran)