U.S. Attorney For Western NC Calls Sanctuary City Policies 'Reckless'
U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray testified in a Senate hearing Tuesday that so-called sanctuary city policies are "reckless," citing cases of people in the country illegally committing violent crimes after being released from jail in Charlotte.
"As U.S. attorney and previously as the district attorney for Charlotte, I've witnessed firsthand the devastating impact that sanctuary policies can have on the community," said Murray, the U.S. attorney for the western district of North Carolina. "I've seen how these policies destroy the lives of innocent victims and their families."
Murray testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing led by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. One of the main topics was legislation introduced by Tillis that would make sheriffs comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden pulled out of participation in the 287(g) program and stopped honoring "detainer" requests from ICE when he was sworn in to office in December 2018. Such detainers let jails keep non-citizen inmates up to two days if there's probable cause to believe the inmate can be deported, even if bail has been posted or if a local judge has issued a release order.
Compliance with detainers is voluntary. McFadden has repeatedly said he would honor criminal warrants obtained by federal authorities.
"If ICE has these people that they believe that is dangerous, put a warrant on them. That warrant will go into (the National Crime Information Center), and anybody including my Mecklenburg County sheriff's deputies, will stop these people on the streets," McFadden said last week on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks."
Murray brought up two high-profile Mecklenburg cases:
- Luis Pineda-Ancheta, who was released from the Mecklenburg County jail this year after an arrest for domestic violence only to be rearrested after a police standoff and released from custody a second time.
- Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo, who was arrested by ICE about two months after being released from the jail after being charged with rape and indecent liberties with a minor.
Both Pineda-Ancheta and Pacheco-Leonardo met conditions for release set by courts, according to the sheriff's office.
Murray said there were "at least 23" other recent cases of people illegally in the country being released in Mecklenburg despite ICE detainer requests.
"Among those releases are individuals charged with serious criminal offenses, such as sex offenses, serious assault, kidnapping and attempted murder, to name a few," Murray said. "Some of these individuals are still at large…
"This is just part of a growing list of unlawfully present criminal aliens who could have been arrested and removed form the United States, yet current sanctuary policies allow them to remain in this country at the expense of the safety of our communities and law enforcement."
McFadden slammed Tillis' bill in July, saying it eroded the authority of sheriffs.
"The proposed legislation would strip the ability of states and local communities to establish their own public safety policies within their respective jurisdictions," McFadden said then in a statement.
Similar legislation at the state level was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Graham suggested local governments should be subject to litigation in cases when ICE detainers are ignored and someone goes on to commit a crime.
"Sen. Tillis, myself and many others believe that sanctuary cities that fail to cooperate with federal officials regarding the detention of dangerous illegal immigrants — who choose to let them go — should have the consequences of letting them go — getting sued, being held accountable," Graham said.