U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday that an illegal immigrant from El Salvador with a criminal child sex offense conviction was captured after being released from custody by the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina.
The criminal alien, Marvin Orlando Ramirez Torres, was released by the sheriff's office despite an ICE immigration detainer that identified Torres as a removable alien.
In a news release, ICE officials blasted the Buncombe County Sheriff's department for releasing "a serious public safety threat into the Asheville community where he was free to potentially harm others."
"This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released into North Carolina communities rather than into ICE custody due to local sheriff policies on ICE non-cooperation," said acting ICE Director Matt Albence. "Continued decisions to refuse cooperation with ICE serve as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that these counties are a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Buncombe County are less safe due to these misguided sanctuary policies."
"It is my sincere desire to work with local partners to whatever extent they are willing to work with this agency in what should be our shared goal to ensure community safety," said ICE Atlanta Interim Field Office Director John Tsoukaris. "Elected law enforcement officials who chose to ignore the ICE detainer, and the ICE warrant of arrest that accompanied the detainer, are placing politics above public safety and failing their most basic duty to protect their communities. Uncooperative jurisdictions such as Buncombe County should be on notice that as long as criminal offenders are being released, they should get used to seeing a lot more ICE at-large enforcement activity in their communities."
Torres, 23 at the time, was arrested on May 4, 2017, for taking indecent liberties with an 11-year-old girl and convicted for the crime on Monday. He was sentenced to time served and released from jail on Tuesday. ICE had sent a detainer request for Torres while he was in custody, but the sheriff's office released him saying ICE failed to obtain an arrest warrant.
Marvin Orlando Torres convicted of Indecent Liberties with a Child by a Buncombe County jury this week; he will register as a sex offender and may be placed on satellite monitoring #avlnews #wncnews pic.twitter.com/IWfEPvXvwD
— Buncombe County DA (@BuncombeCoDA) October 30, 2019
"If ICE is aware of an individual that they have determined to be a danger to the public safety of Buncombe County then ICE should obtain a warrant for their arrest," said Sheriff Quentin Miller. "Once that warrant has been secured my Deputies will work to apprehend that individual."
Miller, a Democrat who won election last November, announced in February that his office will not honor ICE detainers unless there is a criminal arrest warrant against a suspect. The sheriff's insistence on the need for a warrant signed by a judicial official to detain an unlawfully present alien was refuted by ICE:
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act as passed by Congress, ICE detainers, removal orders issued by federal immigration judges, and ICE immigration enforcement in general, is conducted under civil law. The "judicial warrant" demanded by the sheriff only applies to criminal cases and does not exist for civil law matters.
However, for every detainer ICE issues the agency also provides an accompanying administrative warrant, or a warrant of removal along with the detainer, which is the warrant that does exist for matters governed under civil law. The Buncombe County Sheriff's claim that ICE did not provide a warrant is false.
After Torres was released, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Andrew Murray held a news conference criticizing the sheriff's decision and slamming "sanctuary city policies."
"As U.S. attorney and previously as district attorney for Charlotte, I've witnessed firsthand the devastating impact that sanctuary policies can have on a community," Murray said. "I've seen how these policies destroy the lives of innocent victims and their families."
Murray said his office had contacted Miller before Torres was let go to dissuade the sheriff from releasing him.
"The sheriff's response to me was, and I quote, 'Unless they come with a criminal warrant signed by a judge, we are not going to do it,'" Murray said.
"I specifically asked the sheriff, knowing this is a convicted child predator, if he was prepared to release this felon back into the community — to which he responded that his policy is known and has not changed."
The county District Attorney Todd Williams, a Democrat, also unsuccessfully attempted to intervene and persuade Sheriff Miller against releasing Torres.
This incident highlights how much power local elected law enforcement hold over sanctuary policies.
Local officials are responsible for deciding whether to participate in ICE's 287(g) program, a Trump administration initiative to partner state and local law enforcement with ICE to enforce immigration law and deport illegal aliens. Left-wing advocacy groups have targeted nearly 500 sheriff and prosecutor elections in 2019 to elect candidates who have pledged to end partnerships with ICE and refuse to honor immigration detainers.
On Tuesday, voters in these districts will have a say in whether their communities work alongside the federal government to enforce immigration law, or follow Sheriff Miller's lead in releasing potentially dangerous criminal aliens.