‘Sanctuary’ California Failed to Honor Over 5,600 ICE Detainers

Press Releases

February 28, 2019

IRLI investigation shows state released detained alienswith previous convictions or pending criminal charges

WASHINGTON—An investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has revealed that California law enforcement agencies have refused to honor a shocking number of immigration detainer requests for illegal aliens charged with serious felonies, an indictment of the state’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary laws.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by IRLI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released records regarding law enforcement agencies that failed to honor ICE detainer requests. For a 27 month period ending on December 31, 2017, many California police and sheriff’s departments refused to honor over 5,600 immigration holds, of which over 3,400 were classified by ICE as threat level 1 and 2 offenses. These included, but were not limited to, homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, drugs, burglary, and fraud.

IRLI is awaiting additional data from ICE, which would show how many illegal aliens charged with serious felonies were released from jail and later charged with additional crimes.

The release of these illegal aliens came before passage of The California Values Act, also known as SB 54, which limits law enforcement’s ability to cooperate and share immigration information with ICE. It is logical to conclude that refusals of ICE detainer requests and the release of aliens previously convicted of crimes or have pending criminal charges from police custody will only rise now that sanctuary policies are state law in California.

There is growing evidence that violent crime by illegal aliens is prevalent in jurisdictions with sanctuary policies. A recent example occurred recently during a routine traffic stop by Napa County Deputy Sheriff Riley Jarecki in which Javier Hernandez-Morales, a Mexican national and criminal alien, pulled a revolver and shot at the deputy at point-blank range. After Hernandez-Morales’s bullet narrowly missed her, Deputy Sheriff Jarecki returned fire and killed him.

ICE confirmed that they had lodged four separate ICE detainer requests for Hernandez-Morales, three with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office and the other with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office after he had been arrested for battery on a peace officer, probation violations, driving under the influence, and selling liquor to a minor. ICE also confirmed that Hernandez-Morales had been deported three times.

Moreover, of the 5,600 immigration detainers placed against criminal and illegal aliens with California law enforcement agencies, 250 of those detainers were not honored by the Napa and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Offices and the aliens were released back into the community. Napa and Sonoma counties had been sanctuary counties prior to the passing of SB 54.

ICE further commented that this incident might had been prevented if ICE had been notified about any of the multiple times Hernandez-Morales was released from local custody over the last few years. This is an impactful, scary example of how public safety is affected by laws or policies limiting local law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate with ICE.

The Napa County Sheriff’s deputy is lucky to be alive, but Newman Police Corporal Ronil Singh wasn’t so fortunate. He was shot multiple times during a traffic stop on Christmas Day last year by Paulo Virgen Mendoza, a Mexican national and in the country illegally. Police officials said that although Virgen Mendoza had two previous charges of driving under the influence and was reportedly a “Sureños” gang member, neither those charges nor the alleged gang affiliation resulted in notifications to ICE. The Sureños gangs have roots in Southern California and Latin America and engage in illegal activities such as the sale of narcotics and violent crimes, including murder.

Former California Governor Jerry Brown responded to criticism of the state’s “sanctuary state” law, saying the death of Corporal Ronil Singh had “nothing to do” with the law. Seven other suspects were also arrested in connection with Corporal Singh’s death. After their arrests, ICE placed immigration detainers on at least six of the seven suspects in custody on suspicion of aiding Virgen Mendoza in what police say was his attempt to escape to Mexico.

Governor Gavin Newsom has yet to comment on the Napa Valley shooting.

As a response to SB 54, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has directed her staff to publish a “Who’s in Jail” online database, including the date and time of inmates’ release, to help cooperate with other law enforcement agencies, including ICE.

The California Sheriffs’ Association opposed SB 54 and issued a press release stating that the bill restricts communications with federal law enforcement about the release of wanted, illegal alien criminals from jails, including known gang members, repeat drunk drivers, persons who assault peace officers, serial thieves, animal abusers, and other serious offenders.

“How many more incidents like the death of Corporal Singh and the near-death encounter of Deputy Sheriff Jarecki must we endure before California and other states see the direct connection between sanctuary laws and violent crime?” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The results of this investigation are disturbing, but also a wakeup call for Americans to demand more accountability from their anti-borders elected leaders. Sanctuary laws not only violate federal law; they put their residents and law enforcement officers in imminent danger that is preventable.”

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

Get Connected

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.

Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.

If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.