Police in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue had a chance to get Carlos Daniel Carillo-Lopez, an illegal immigrant, off the streets in March — but a local jail defied a deportation notification request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and released him into the community.
Three weeks later, police say, the 19-year-old Guatemalan, eager to join the violent Surenos street gang, took part in a murder posse that tracked down and slew a teen from a rival gang.
Mr. Carillo-Lopez, who came to the U.S. as part of the Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) surge, is at the crossroads of the current immigration debate, having gained a foothold in the U.S. thanks to more relaxed policies for those children — then managed to remain here, despite a growing criminal record, thanks to the prevalence of sanctuary city policies.
He was in police custody repeatedly over the last six months, both before and after the murder, and each time ICE asked that deportation officers be notified before he was released. Each time jails defied the request, ICE says.
“This is yet again another example of sanctuary policies shielding criminal aliens who prey on people in their own and other communities from immigration enforcement,” Tanya Roman, an ICE spokeswoman, told The Washington Times. “As Carillo-Lopez’s crimes increased in severity, local officials chose to release him, time and time again, over immigration detainers that could have taken him off the streets.”
By ICE’s count, Bellevue police and the King County Sheriff’s Department arrested Mr. Carillo-Lopez once in March, twice in April and once again in June. Each time he was released without ICE being told. Three of those releases were from South Correctional Entity Jail, which Bellevue contracts with, and the other release was from King County’s jail.
“This is an ugly story, but sadly common now,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies. She said it’s particularly troubling in the case of criminal gangs, where even “notorious” sanctuary cities would cooperate with ICE because of the threats. Now many of them have cut back, she said.
“How many more people have to die before sanctuary leaders admit that it is a huge public safety mistake to defy ICE detainers, and reverse their policies?” Ms. Vaughan said.
Mr. Carillo-Lopez came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied alien child (UAC) in 2015, ICE said, meaning he showed up at the border without a parent. Under U.S. policy he was arrested and given a deportation court date, then was turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which sent him to a sponsor in Texas.
It’s not clear how he reached Washington.
Experts have long warned that the surge of illegal immigrant teens from Central America over the last five years has created a massive recruiting pool for largely Hispanic street gangs such as MS-13 and the Surenos.
The killing is just the latest gang slaying to be tied to sanctuary policies.
Prince George’s County, in Maryland, admitted earlier this year that its corrections department defied an ICE request and released an alleged MS-13 gang member onto the streets, although he had been booked for attempted murder.
Months after his release, he would go on to commit murder, killing a 14-year-old girl he thought would snitch about a gang robbery, police charged.
Ms. Vaughan said gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street are intentionally using America’s lax policies toward illegal immigrant children to sneak members into the U.S. Border Patrol agents have even caught adult gang members posing as children at the border to try to bamboozle their way in.
The operations manager at the South Correctional Entity, which released Mr. Carillo-Lopez three times this year in defiance of ICE detainers, said their policy on cooperating with ICE could be summed up as “we don’t.”
He then said he would have the executive director respond to questions about the policy, but she never called back.
Bellevue’s mayor didn’t respond to a message seeking comment, nor did the King County Sheriff’s Department.
King County Executive Dow Constantine’s spokesperson said they would have to look into the matter and didn’t follow up by deadline for this article. Neither did the Bellevue Police Department.
The Bellevue Police Department said the decision on release from jail was up to the South Correctional Entity.
As for its own policy on the notifying ICE, the department said it feels bound by state law.
It pointed to a law that restricts cooperation only to cases where immigration status is relevant to the crime. The department indicated a gang murder didn’t qualify.
“That exception was not met in this case,” said spokesperson Meeghan Black.
The department, in announcing last week’s arrests, did not reveal Mr. Carillo-Lopez’s immigration history, nor did they acknowledge the repeated attempts by ICE to deport the migrant.
The Washington Times learned of the situation through a tip.
Sanctuary policies — which range from refusing to hold illegal immigrants for ICE all the way up to a total ban on all communications — have spread during the Trump administration, as communities seek ways to defy the president’s stricter approach to enforcing immigration laws.
Entire states such as California now fall under non-cooperation orders. The Federation for American Immigration Reform calculated last year that half of the country’s population lived in a sanctuary.
Yet there’s also renewed pushback.
The police chief in Fairfax County, Virginia, announced he had suspended an officer last week for cooperating with ICE, then reversed the decision a day later after community outcry.
In the case of Mr. Carillo-Lopez, charging documents filed in court expose the depths of the troubling behavior of criminal gangs.
Mr. Carillo-Lopez told investigators he had actually been buddies with the victim, Josue Flores, but he was looking to join the Eastside 13 Crossroads Lokos, a Sureno gang affiliate, and he thought Flores belonged to the Northside 18, a rival gang.
On April 3, Flores’s girlfriend sent Mr. Carillo-Lopez a Snapchat picture where she was “throwing” gang signs such as the figure “8” — a Northside gang symbol — with her hands.
“What are you throwing?” Mr. Carillo-Lopez shot back in his own Snapchat message.
The situation escalated over Facebook Messenger and cell phones, and Mr. Carillo-Lopez and his group figured they would try to fight, witnesses said. But they decided going after the girl would be a bad idea, so they targeted her boyfriend, Flores.
Eventually, they all caught up with each other in a park, police say, and Flores was left dead with multiple gunshot wounds.
Bellevue police first arrested Mr. Carillo-Lopez the night of the killing, but he claimed to have left the park before the violence. He was released from custody despite ICE’s detainer request.
Detectives, using video obtained from a Microsoft office and a convenience store, and triangulating cell phone signals, began to unwind the story and placed Mr. Carillo-Lopez and three other gang associates at the scene of the crime.
Arrested a second time by police last month, Mr. Carillo-Lopez admitted he was there. He said Flores showed up with a machete, and the Crossroads Lokos gang members pounced, sending him to the ground with a pistol-whipping. Then one of them — Mr. Carillo-Lopez said it was fellow gang member Jesus Uriostegui — fired the shots that killed Flores.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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