Cy hands susps to ICE for de­port

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN REX BROWN

When Justo San­tos beat a mur­der charge in 2014, Man­hat­tan Dis­trict At­tor­ney Cy Vance Jr. wasn’t done with him — he re­ferred San­tos to ICE for pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion.

The move, which Vance says is ap­pro­pri­ate un­der “rare and ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances,” is unique to his of­fice.

Spokes­men for the city’s other four dis­trict at­tor­neys said they were ei­ther un­aware of their pros­e­cu­tors ever re­fer­ring de­fen­dants to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment — or that their of­fices did not make such re­fer­rals as a mat­ter of pol­icy.

Vance only made one re­fer­ral to ICE last year. His of­fice would not say how many sus­pects it re­ferred to ICE in 2016 and 2017, but in­sisted the num­ber was very small.

“In some cases where nonci­t­i­zen de­fen­dants are ac­cused and con­victed of very se­ri­ous crimes, we can and should re­fer them to ICE for ap­pro­pri­ate im­mi­gra­tion pro­ceed­ings,” Chief As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Karen Ag­nifilo wrote in an in­ter­nal memo March 2017. The memo notes that such sit­u­a­tions are very rare and should in­volve su­per­vi­sors.

The Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety, which sup­ports the “abol­ish ICE” move­ment, is not pleased with Vance’s pol­icy. “Peo­ple think of Man­hat­tan as a pro­gres­sive bas­tion, but among the five bor­oughs it’s only Man­hat­tan’s dis­trict at­tor­ney who ac­tively re­ports New York­ers to ICE,” said Hasan Shafiqul­lah, at­tor­ney-in­charge of the the Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety’s im­mi­gra­tion law unit.

“His of­fice tries to jus­tify this prac­tice un­der the guise of pub­lic safety,” Shafiqul­lah said. “But un­der­min­ing im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties’ trust in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is re­ally what threat­ens pub­lic safety. DA Vance should fol­low the lead of New York’s other four DAs in this re­gard and scrap this pol­icy im­me­di­ately.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said San­tos had man­aged to avoid fac­ing jus­tice for the 1986 mur­der of In­wood restau­rant owner Jose Martinez. After the fa­tal shoot­ing, San­tos fled to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, where he lived un­der a fake name. In 2013 the case was re­opened thanks to sleuthing by the vic­tim’s daugh­ter, Jose­lyn Martinez. She dis­cov­ered that San­tos was liv­ing in Mi­ami, and au­thor­i­ties ar­rested him for the cold case mur­der.

But in 2014, a judge ruled the po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors vi­o­lated San­tos’ rights by wait­ing so long to ar­rest him. San­tos, who ar­gued he acted in self-de­fense, walked out of the court­room a free man — but not for long. Vance’s of­fice soon re­ferred San­tos to ICE for ly­ing on his cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion in 2007.

He was con­victed of im­mi­gra­tion fraud in Mi­ami in July 2016 for not dis­clos­ing his crim­i­nal record. The sen­tence in that case could not be de­ter­mined and ef­forts to reach San­tos, 48, were un­suc­cess­ful. An ICE spokes­woman was on fur­lough due to the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

“He de­served to be de­ported. He killed a hu­man be­ing,” said Jose­lyn Martinez, 41.

“I think Cy Vance did the right thing. I don’t have to bump into my dad’s mur­derer walk­ing down the street.”

Three-term DA Vance has joined other dis­trict at­tor­neys and ad­vo­cates in crit­i­cism of ICE, which car­ries out Pres­i­dent Trump’s harsh im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. Vance has called for ICE to stop mak­ing ar­rests in­side court­houses — a prac­tice that many say has a chill­ing ef­fect on the ju­di­cial process.

Vance has also ad­vo­cated for sanc­tu­ary city poli­cies, and cre­ated an in-house team ded­i­cated to as­sess­ing col­lat­eral con­se­quences for im­mi­grants fac­ing charges and ac­cept­ing plea deals.

But last year, Vance’s pros­e­cu­tors re­ferred a de­fen­dant to ICE as a way to get around a judge’s un­fa­vor­able rul­ing. A Vance spokes­woman de­clined to iden­tify the de­fen­dant, but said he was await­ing trial in a shoot­ing and gang as­sault, and had had his bail re­duced on ap­peal.

Pros­e­cu­tors be­lieved it was likely the man would flee, so Vance’s of­fice re­quested an “im­mi­gra­tion hold” from ICE. The ap­pel­late judge’s bail or­der was re­versed, the Vance spokes­woman said, so ICE never took the man into cus­tody.

JEF­FER­SON SIEGEL / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Man­hat­tan DA Cy Vance Jr. op­poses hav­ing ICE in court­houses, but has been crit­i­cized for turn­ing over some de­fen­dants for de­por­ta­tion.

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