ICE said Saturday it has served four subpoenas on New York City jail officials demanding information on illegal immigrants the city is shielding under its sanctuary policy, and warning the federal government will go to court to enforce the subpoenas if it has to.
The subpoenas are a new tactic as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tries to figure out ways to force better cooperation with localities that don’t want to play ball with federal immigration agencies.
ICE says it has authority under the law to issue the subpoenas, but hasn’t had to flex that power because most jurisdictions in the past cooperated to some extent. But a massive anti-Trump movement has created a tidal wave of new sanctuaries and ICE officials are clearly frustrated.
The agency is seeking information on the four illegal immigrants’ whereabouts and, if possible, predicted release dates from New York custody.
“Like any law enforcement agency, we are used to modifying our tactics as criminals shift their strategies; but it’s disheartening that we must change our practices and jump through so many hoops with partners who are restricted by sanctuary laws passed by politicians with a dangerous agenda,” said Henry Lucero, acting deputy executive associate director of ICE’s deportation division.
ICE said it served similar subpoenas in Denver this week as well.
The New York migrants who are the subjects of the subpoenas are a 21-year-old man indicted this week on murder charges after police say he assaulted then killed a 92-year-old woman who was poring through garbage piles looking for recyclables; a 26-year-old wanted for homicide in his home country of El Salvador, but who was already released by New York in defiance of ICE’s request; a 38-year-old Mexican accused of attempted rape; and another 38-year-old Mexican who’s been deported before, who served a five-year sentence for attempting to import methamphetamine, and who now faces new drug charges.
The 21-year-old man accused of murder, Reeaz Khan, has reignited the sanctuary-city issue.
New York City said it will hold onto Mr. Khan while he awaits trial — and said it stands by its sanctuary status.
“New York City will not change the policies that have made us the safest big city in America, and the Trump administration’s attempts to exploit this tragedy are absolutely shameful,” said Freddi Goldstein, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He said they will review the subpoena.
New York’s policy prevents the city from cooperating with ICE unless someone is convicted of a crime from a specified list. Arrests, no matter the charge, don’t meet that threshold.
Even then, the city says ICE must obtain a judicial warrant — something ICE says is impossible. There is no judicial warrant in the immigration system, says acting ICE chief Matt Albence.
He traveled to New York this week to scold city officials, demanding they accept responsibility for the 92-year-old woman’s death.
Mr. Khan, 21, was arrested on assault charges in November and ICE tried to pick him up but New York refused to cooperate and released him instead. He now stands accused of the murder of Maria Fuertes.
Police said they have surveillance footage of Mr. Khan initiating the attack, and say he admitted it to investigators — though he says the assault was an accident. He said he saw the woman and tried to help her, but his pants accidentally fell down and his genitals came in contact with the woman’s.
“You know what? If you’re going to have a sanctuary city policy, and you know it’s going to result in people going back out onto the street to commit more crimes, at least own it,” Mr. Albence said. “At least stand up and say ‘Yeah, that’s our policy.’ Own it. Don’t sit there and try to push the blame onto somebody else.”
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