Im­mi­grant charged with rape in sanc­tu­ary city

Philadel­phia po­lice won’t work with feds un­less Hon­duran im­mi­grant is con­victed

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVE BOYER

He could be­come the Wil­lie Hor­ton of the im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis.

Mil­ton Ma­teo Gar­cia, 28, was caught one year ago en­ter­ing the U.S. il­le­gally across the Mex­i­can bor­der and was de­ported back to his na­tive Hon­duras.

But Mr. Gar­cia soon re-en­tered the U.S. il­le­gally — federal au­thor­i­ties ei­ther don’t know how, or they won’t say. He set­tled with rel­a­tives in Philadel­phia, where Mayor Michael Nut­ter had signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in April declar­ing it a “sanc­tu­ary city” for il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Since then, it’s the city’s of­fi­cial pol­icy to defy federal au­thor­i­ties seek­ing to de­port il­le­gal im­mi­grants un­less the per­son sought by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency has been con­victed of a vi­o­lent felony. More than 100 com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide have en­acted sim­i­lar poli­cies, with the tacit bless­ing of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Liv­ing and work­ing in sanc­tu­ary, Mr. Gar­cia last month, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, ap­proached a 26-year-old Philadel­phia doc­tor who was walk­ing to her home in the city’s fash­ion­able Rit­ten­house Square neigh­bor­hood af­ter a night out with friends. He is ac­cused of forc­ing the woman into her apart­ment and rap­ing her re­peat­edly.

Po­lice said Mr. Gar­cia then stole the vic­tim’s cell­phone and rode away on his bi­cy­cle. In per­haps not the smartest of moves, Mr. Gar­cia kept the vic­tim’s smart­phone in his pos­ses­sion. Po­lice said they found him, in part, by call­ing the phone and lo­cat­ing its sig­nal.

With Mr. Gar­cia now in prison fac­ing trial on rape, kid­nap­ping and rob­bery charges, ICE has lodged a de­tainer against him, re­quest­ing that lo­cal po­lice no­tify federal im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties be­fore he would be re­leased. But Philadel­phia po­lice won’t honor that re­quest un­less Mr. Gar­cia is con­victed of a vi­o­lent felony and a ju­di­cial war­rant is is­sued.

As with the case in the 1980s of Hor­ton, a con­victed felon whose additional crimes while on prison fur­lough pro­voked a po­lit­i­cal furor, Mr. Gar­cia’s sit­u­a­tion high­lights many of the crit­i­cisms of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of im­mi­gra­tion — from en­cour­ag­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants to make the jour­ney to the U.S. to fail­ing to se­cure the bor­der and al­low­ing a patch­work of sanc­tu­ary cities and coun­ties where im­mi­grants need not fear de­por­ta­tion.

“There’s some col­lec­tive blame here,” said Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies. “The city of Philadel­phia has made it­self a sanc­tu­ary and, in do­ing so, has been shield­ing lots of crim­i­nal aliens from de­por­ta­tion and cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where people have no fear of im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.”

She said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion also has en­cour­aged le­niency for il­le­gal im­mi­grants “by send­ing the mes­sage that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are free to ig­nore their own agents when they try to re­move these in­di­vid­u­als.”

“There is no ques­tion that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­cour­aged cities like Philadel­phia to adopt sanc­tu­ary and non­co­op­er­a­tion poli­cies that ob­struct ICE from tak­ing cus­tody of of­fend­ers like this,” she said. “Ear­lier this year, se­nior ICE man­agers in [Wash­ing­ton] told lo­cal au­thor­i­ties ex­plic­itly that they are free to ig­nore lo­cal ICE of­fi­cers when they is­sue de­tain­ers seek­ing cus­tody of crim­i­nal aliens like Mil­ton Ma­teo Gar­cia.”

Ms. Vaughan said this “cre­ates con­di­tions where crim­i­nal aliens are more likely to be re­leased into the com­mu­nity and more likely to be able to vic­tim­ize people when they could be sent home.”

She also said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of “catch-and-re­lease,” in which cap­tured il­le­gal im­mi­grants are re­leased with a no­tice to ap­pear at far-off court date, con­trib­utes to a break­down in the sys­tem.

A spokes­woman for ICE, Gil­lian Chris­tensen, wouldn’t ad­dress the ques­tion of whether Philadel­phia’s sanc­tu­ary sta­tus played a role in Mr. Gar­cia’s case.

She did say that Mr. Gar­cia, also known as Mil­ton Gar­cia-Vazquez, “was pre­vi­ously re­moved from the United States in June 2013” and that ICE has lodged a de­tainer against him since his ar­rest.

“By is­su­ing a de­tainer, ICE re­quests that a law-en­force­ment agency no­tify ICE be­fore re­leas­ing an in­di­vid­ual in or­der to al­low ICE to as­sume cus­tody,” she said.

A spokesman for Mr. Nut­ter said the mayor still “fully sup­ports his ex­ec­u­tive or­der” in spite of the Gar­cia case and be­lieves it has en­hanced pub­lic safety.

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