By Michael Volpe
A radical immigration policy under which local law enforcement agencies have been told to ignore orders to hand over custody of illegal alien criminals for possible deportation apparently has led to the death of a teenager in Illinois, WND has learned.
Erick Maya, 23, is currently being held by authorities in Romeoville, Ill., a suburb 30 miles southwest of Chicago, after being arrested and charged with the murder of his 15-year-old girlfriend and the attempted murder of her mother in February.
Brianna Valle, 15, died after being shot twice in the head, and her mother, Alicia Guerrero, was injured, local authorities confirm.
Maya’s encounters with police date back at least to October 2011, when he was arrested for assaulting another 15-year-old in Berwyn, Ill., a suburb in south Cook County. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison, which he served at the Cook County Jail.
According to Gail Montenegro, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official for Illinois, ICE placed a detainer on Maya at the time of his arrest. That detainer is a hold of up to two business days placed on prisoners in municipal jails who also are sought by ICE officials for immigration violations.
Normally, inmates with detainers like Maya, instead of being released following their sentence, would be transferred to ICE and ultimately deported. But in September 2011, Cook County adopted a radical ordinance that prevents Cook County Jail officials from cooperating with ICE on any detainer, even ones for individuals involved in violent offenses like Maya.
Montenegro told WND that Maya simply was released rather than being turned over to ICE after his sentence was served at Cook County Jail.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement first placed an immigration detainer on Erick Maya at the Berwyn Police Department on criminal charges,” she said. “Despite the ICE detainer, ICE was not informed of Mr. Maya’s release from local custody. Consequently, he was released on the streets instead of being turned over to ICE.”
According to ICE policy, a detainer should follow an inmate, so that Cook County, which released Maya, would have been told of the need to turn the inmate over to the federal agency when he completed his term in the Cook County Jail.
Montenegro said ICE now has issued a new detainer to Romeoville authorities following his arrest in February. Romeoville is in neighboring Will County.
Berwyn Police Chief Jim Ritz didn’t respond to an email from WND for comment, but he emailed a statement to the Romeoville Patch defending his department’s actions.
In the March 14 email, Ritz said he believed ICE was notified of Maya’s release “because one of our officers that assisted with (the) call is on the U.S. Marshall Task Force.”
According to the article, Maya was transferred to Cook County Jail to serve his 60-day sentence and was subsequently released from Cook County Jail rather than being turned over to ICE. A request for comment from Frank Bilecki, spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, did not generate a response.
There also was no response to an email request to Owen Kilmer, press secretary for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Preckwinkle was a leading proponent of the local ordinance when it passed in 2011.
It’s not the first time that a local ordinance of this kind is at the center of controversy. In late 2011, Saul Chavez was allowed to bond out of Cook County Jail despite having a similar ICE detainer.
Chavez had hit and killed a pedestrian named Denny McCann, 68, in June 2011 while driving drunk. Chavez had registered a .29 blood alcohol level later that evening when he was arrested. Chavez bonded out after $20,000 or 10 percent of his $200,000 bond was paid and his detainer ignored.
He subsequently missed a court date and is considered a fugitive presumed to be living in his home state of Mexico.
The McCann family has tried unsuccessfully for more than two years to have the Cook County ban on ICE detainers reversed.
Jessica Vaughan, a policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies, analyzed the Cook County ordinance and other similar ordinances.
She told WND the case “is another tragic example of what can happen when local officials ignore or obstruct ICE’s efforts to take custody of deportable aliens who have been arrested for other crimes.”
Cook County is among a series of localities that have similar ordinances. In 2011, ICE agents did a sweep and arrested 63 suspected illegal aliens after Santa Clara County, Calif., released them under a similar ordinance there.
In the state of New York, Luis Rodriguez Flamenco allegedly stabbed 45-year-old Kathleen Byham outside a Wal-Mart in Albion after an ICE detainer was ignored when Flamenco was incarcerated for an unrelated burglary charge.
Washington, D.C., also passed a similar ordinance in 2012. California nearly passed a similar law for the entire state before Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill last year.