Fed­eral judge says he’ll go af­ter ICE if man gets de­ported

Jurist says fate of Painesville man rests with his court.

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Eric Heisig

A fed­eral judge CLEVE­LAND — threat­ened to hold ICE agents in con­tempt of court if they tried to de­port a Painesville man he or­dered freed on bond af­ter he pleaded guilty to il­le­gally re-en­ter­ing the United States from Mex­ico.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge James Gwin said dur­ing a bond hear­ing Wed­nes­day for Ce­sar Veloz-Alonso that he didn’t think the 39-year-old con­struc­tion worker, who was de­ported four pre­vi­ous times in the past two decades, was a flight risk or a dan­ger to the com­mu­nity.

Gwin also said he be­lieves that fed­eral law gives him the author­ity to grant a bond, and that author­ity trumps laws al­low­ing U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to hold a per­son al­ready or­dered re­moved from the coun­try and de­port them be­fore their crim­i­nal case is de­cided.

In other words, the judge said his rul­ing should over­ride any ac­tion ICE plans to take, since he still over­sees Veloz-Alonso’s crim­i­nal case. His rul­ing is not dis­sim­i­lar to what other judges have done na­tion­wide, though there is not clear le­gal author­ity on this is­sue.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Danielle An­geli re­peat­edly noted in Wed­nes­day’s and a pre­vi­ous hear­ing that her of­fice has no con­trol over ICE, which is part of a dif­fer­ent de­part­ment, and that agents would im­me­di­ately take Veloz-Alonso into cus­tody upon his re­lease and likely send him back to Mex­ico. Veloz-Alonso is not sched­uled to be sen­tenced un­til Jan­uary and Gwin, a 1997 ap­pointee of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, said he was in­clined to dis­miss VelozAlonzo’s crim­i­nal case if he was de­ported be­fore then.

The judge also said ICE would face trou­ble if that hap­pened.

“If ICE wants to pick him up I’m likely go­ing to pur­sue a con­tempt sanc­tion against ICE for vi­o­lat­ing the Court’s author­ity to deal with a crim­i­nal case the way the court feels ap­pro­pri­ate,” Gwin said, ac­cord­ing to a tran­script of the hear­ing.

Gwin’s de­ci­sion was a twist in what is oth­er­wise a nor­mal case to pros­e­cute un­der the cur­rent Jus­tice De­part­ment. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity have has led ef­forts to more strictly en­force the U.S.’s im­mi­gra­tion laws. This in­cludes the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “zero-tol­er­ance” pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing par­ents from chil­dren for peo­ple cross­ing the bor­der seek­ing asy­lum.

Re­cent ac­counts say that more than 12,000 chil­dren re­main in fed­eral de­ten­tion cen­ters. Fed­eral prose­cu­tors have also pushed more low-level im­mi­gra­tion cases through crim­i­nal courts, in­clud­ing in Ohio.

The U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice ap­pealed Gwin’s rul­ing to the 6th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals on Thurs­day, and in­tend to ask it to put Gwin’s rul­ing on hold. Spokesman Mike Tobin de­clined com­ment.

Veloz-Alonso — who is mar­ried, has three chil­dren and a house that’s nearly paid off — pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to an il­le­gal re-en­try charge. His in­dict­ment says he was last de­ported in De­cem­ber 2009 and was picked up by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties in June.

His fed­eral pub­lic de­fender Car­los Warner wrote in his re­quest for bond that Veloz-Alonso’s friends, neigh­bors and em­ployer of 13 years all vouched for him. Gwin said Wed­nes­day that VelozAlonso must re­main in his home and be on elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing.

Veloz-Alonso lis­tened to both hear­ings through a trans­la­tor. The judge never ad­dressed him, and he never spoke.

Gwin has a rep­u­ta­tion in the lo­cal le­gal com­mu­nity for con­tin­u­ously chal­leng­ing at­tor­neys who ap­pear be­fore him. This tem­per­a­ment was on full dis­play dur­ing two hear­ings Oct. 4 and Wed­nes­day, and he spent most of both hear­ings en­gaged with An­geli.

He also mar­veled that five as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­neys were in his court­room for Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing, in­clud­ing Robert Bul­ford, chief of the crim­i­nal di­vi­sion. Gwin asked Bul­ford if ap­peal­ing his rul­ing was the best use of the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice’s re­sources.

“I mean given the num­ber of crim­i­nal cases, don’t you have some­thing where there’s a greater dan­ger to the pub­lic than spend­ing the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice on a case of this type?” the judge asked.

Bul­ford said he would not an­swer that ques­tion.

Gwin re­peat­edly told An­geli that the eas­i­est way to re­solve the case would be for her to dis­miss the crim­i­nal charge so ICE can de­port Veloz-Alonso. The ap­par­ent con­flict be­tween two sets of laws would then be re­solved, Gwin rea­soned.

An­geli, af­ter con­sult­ing with U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice of­fi­cials, said Wed­nes­day that she would not dis­miss Veloz-Alonso’s charge and that prose­cu­tors have in­vested re­sources be­cause of his prior re­movals.

She also said there was no bond and con­di­tions that could en­sure that he would show up for sen­tenc­ing, es­pe­cially “be­cause he’ll likely be de­ported” upon re­lease.

Gwin later told her that “it sounds like you’re stick­ing your thumb in the Court’s eye and say­ing that judges don’t have author­ity to make a de­ci­sion on bond.” An­geli said that was not the case.

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