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‘Clear Public Safety Threat’: ICE Rips Sanctuary County For Releasing Illegal Alien Convicted For Deadly Car Crash

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
  • Jose Barajas-Diaz, an illegal alien from Mexico, was involved in a deadly drunk-driving accident in North Carolina, and ultimately convicted of felony death by motor vehicle. 
  • The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor an ICE detainer placed on Barajas-Diaz and released him from custody without cooperating with the agency. ICE agents captured him days later.
  • The episode marked the latest example of Mecklenburg County refusing to work with federal immigration authorities since the arrival of Sheriff Garry McFadden. 

Officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, refused to honor an ICE detainer placed on an illegal alien convicted in a deadly drunk driving accident, opting instead to release him back into the community.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed a detainer request on Jose Barajas-Diaz, a Mexican national living illegally in the U.S., a day after he was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, in January for driving while impaired and for felony death by motor vehicle. After his sentencing in October, however, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor the ICE detainer, and released him from their custody.

ICE agents were able to locate and apprehend Barajas-Diaz several days later.

“This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released into North Carolina communities rather than into ICE custody due to local sheriff policies on ICE non-cooperation,” Matthew Albence, the acting director of ICE, said in a Monday statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement Acting Director Matthew T. Albence Testifies Before House Appropriations Committee

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 25: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew Albence testifies before the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Continued decisions to refuse cooperation with ICE serve as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that these counties are a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Mecklenburg County are less safe due to these misguided sanctuary policies,” Albence continued.

Barajas-Diaz was first arrested on Jan. 29 by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department following an accident that killed a motorcyclist. He made a U-turn in his truck onto inbound lanes, striking the motorcyclist, and killing him on the scene, according to police.

The Mexican national was charged with felony death by violence, operating without a license, driving while impaired, open container after consuming, and a safe movement violation. The North Carolina Superior Court for Mecklenburg County convicted Barajas-Diaz of felony death by motor vehicle on Oct. 24, and slapped him with a five-year suspended sentence with credit for time already served.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which largely refuses to work with federal immigration authorities, ignored the ICE detainer placed on Barajas-Diaz and released him back into the community. Regardless, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers arrested him on Nov. 1, and he remains in the agency’s custody as he undergoes removal proceedings.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers transfer an unauthorized immigrant with a criminal record during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation in San Jose, California, U.S., Sept. 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers transfer an unauthorized immigrant with a criminal record during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation in San Jose, California, U.S. September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

Since winning election in December 2018, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden has refused to work with federal immigration authorities. McFadden, a Democrat, will not honor ICE detainer requests, and has released a number of criminal illegal aliens from his custody — insisting that ICE must obtain a judicial warrant to make his office hold onto an individual. (RELATED: Sanctuary County Rolls Back Its Anti-ICE Policy Following String Of Illegal Aliens Charged With Rape)

“Under the Immigration and Nationality Act as passed by Congress, ICE detainers, removal orders issued by federal immigration judges, and ICE immigration enforcement in general, is conducted under civil law,” the agency said in a statement. “The ‘judicial warrant’ demanded by the sheriff only applies to criminal cases and does not exist for civil law matters.”

“However, for every detainer ICE issues the agency also provides an accompanying administrative warrant, or a warrant of removal along with the detainer, which is the warrant that does exist for matters governed under civil law,” the statement continued.

McFadden publicly invited ICE representatives in September to visit his office to discuss their differences. ICE agents, however, have accused the sheriff of repeatedly ignoring their attempts at outreach by not responding to calls or emails.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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