By Thomas D. HomanSeptember 26, 2017 Updated: September 26, 2017 1:23pm
A memorial service was held on Aug. 29 in Wind sor for Veronica Cabrera Ramirez, who was killed by her boyfriend just days after he was released from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office despite an ICE detainer request.
When Nery Estrada Margos walked into the Santa Rosa Police Department on Aug. 18 to turn himself in, he told officers he believed he had killed his girlfriend, Veronica Cabrera Ramirez. Two weeks earlier, Estrada Margos had been arrested on charges of felony domestic battery against Cabrera Ramirez and booked into the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa. During that process, Estrada Margos’ fingerprints triggered an alert to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because he had been deported to Guatemala in 2008 and was in the United States illegally. ICE immediately filed with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office a detainer — a formal request that we be alerted 48 hours before law enforcement releases a deportable alien — so that ICE could take custody of Estrada Margos and remove him to his home country.
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Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office did not honor our detainer and released Estrada Margos after he posted bail. ICE deportation officers in San Francisco — more than 50 miles from Santa Rosa — were notified just minutes before his release. The Sheriff’s Office was fully aware that our officers could not possibly be in Santa Rosa before Estrada Margos was back on the street.
Had we been given enough time to take custody of this deportable alien, Cabrera Ramirez might be alive today. By refusing to cooperate, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office allowed an alleged abuser to walk free.
Within days, Cabrera Ramirez was dead.
Too often, rather than working together to strengthen our communities and uphold public safety, local jurisdictions are quick to transfer blame elsewhere. Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told KTVU-TV that “sometimes they pick up, sometimes they don’t,” insinuating that ICE made a mistake and is at fault for this tragedy. His statement is disturbing and disingenuous.
There was no mistake in this case. Estrada Margos’ release was the result of a clear policy choice made by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of Supervisors, and the tragic and preventable death of Cabrera Ramirez was the result. Almost every other county in California, and many others across the country, has chosen to prohibit acting on such detainers unless ICE provides a warrant. Recognizing the limitations placed on local law enforcement by such decrees, ICE updated its detainer policy earlier this year to require that each detainer be accompanied by an administrative arrest warrant issued by ICE, which is the lawful framework established by Congress for the enforcement of immigration violations.
It’s about to get even worse.
In a tragic coincidence, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office had announced that a new policy of noncooperation with ICE would start Aug. 18 — the same day Cabrera Ramirez was killed.
Under the county’s new plan, the Sheriff’s Office will “respond to ICE only for people with prior convictions of serious crimes.” Unfortunately, the policy is vague with regard to which felony convictions and which misdemeanor convictions would cause the county to cooperate with ICE and help us remove a known criminal alien from the country.
In other words, some crimes committed by removable aliens have been deemed acceptable by the Sheriff’s Office and the Board of Supervisors. They apparently believe that, with few exceptions, helping illegal aliens evade the rule of law is a greater priority than public safety.
Under this new policy, an illegal alien arrested for — but not yet convicted of — a serious crime, who is nonetheless removable by virtue of his or her illegal status alone, may be released by the sheriff instead of being transferred to ICE. This is a gamble the community cannot afford, and it is a gamble that the entire state of California now faces with SB54 — legislation passed Friday that deliberately obstructs our country’s immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders.
If signed into law by the governor, SB54 will make California a sanctuary state for illegal aliens at the expense of public safety.
By preventing state and local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE, the bill makes it harder to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred in Sonoma County. At a time when law enforcement officers at every level should be looking for ways to improve collaboration and work together, politicians in Sonoma County and in Sacramento are working hard to do just the opposite.
Giordano owes the San Francisco ICE officers and my agency an apology. More important, he and the Board of Supervisors owe the Cabrera Ramirez family an apology. Although our immigration system is complex, ICE seeks straightforward cooperation with all sheriffs and local elected officials. Noncooperation policies like those in Sonoma County are endangering lives, and enshrining them into law only makes a bad situation far more dangerous.
Thomas D. Homan is the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Original Story: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-s-proposed-sanctuary-law-endangers-12229856.php
Photo: Brian L. Frank, Special To The Chronicle Photo: Brian L. Frank, Special To The Chronicle