Local case displays government’s willful ignorance on immigration and crime

Donald Trump’s harsh words about illegal immigration — especially undocumented immigrants who commit crimes — appeal to a lot of Republicans because they’re frustrated with the government’s willful efforts to ignore the problem and the law itself.

As if more proof were needed that authorities aren’t terribly committed to identifying criminal undocumented immigrants and protecting the public from them — proof beyond San Francisco’s refusal to transfer to federal custody seven-time felon and five-time deportee Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, now a suspect in the slaying of a woman — I found my own evidence in trying to determine the immigration status of local criminal suspects.

The Las Vegas Valley has seen a number of high-profile crimes in recent months, none more shocking than the summer campaign by a handful of crooks to ram police cars with stolen vehicles. Three suspects were arrested: Francis Carbajal, 26; Hugo Carbajal, 27; and Edgar Medina, 35. Each man faces more than 100 felony counts and is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on more than $900,000 bail. They’re accused of being prolific burglars as well as car thieves.

Were any of them in the country illegally? Media coverage didn’t say so. You might think determining a criminal suspect’s immigration status is a routine matter. But it isn’t.

I called Clark County prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci to see if he knew whether any of the suspects were in the country illegally. He said Medina had a prior felony conviction of illegal re-entry after deportation. So right away, it’s obvious Medina had been deported at least twice and returned to the United States both times. Beyond that conviction, however, Pesci had no other information.

So I called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was advised that if a suspect is determined to be in the country illegally, local police should have an immigration “hold” on the arrestee that tells them to not release the inmate. I was also told that such ICE holds normally aren’t disclosed by the agency but should be public information through local police.

I called the Metropolitan Police Department, which runs the detention center. But public information officer Larry Hadfield told me the detention center doesn’t do immigration holds. “We don’t hold anyone for additional time beyond what they face locally,” he said. It’s up to ICE agents to note when any undocumented immigrant is up for release and come get the suspect themselves.

Could Metro tell me whether ICE had placed notes in the files of any of the three suspects? No, Hadfield said.

So I called ICE back and broke the news that the office shouldn’t expect any support from local authorities in keeping Medina incarcerated, whether he’s found guilty of his most recent charges or not.

A couple of days later, I received a statement from Virginia Kice, regional spokeswoman for ICE: “Given the seriousness of the allegations associated with this individual’s arrest … ICE is monitoring the case closely and has lodged a formal request with the custodial law enforcement agency seeking notification in advance of his release or transfer from local custody.”

Translation: Pretty please tell us when you’re about to cut him loose so we can deport him a third time, at which point he’ll be free to illegally cross our border and commit more crimes against Americans.

I was able to confirm that the Carbajals, Medina’s alleged partners in the theft ring, are U.S. citizens.

Our governments, which keep statistics on just about everything and work together seamlessly in spending your tax dollars, want nothing to do with tracking illegal immigration. It has simply become too hot an issue for them to touch.

No wonder Americans are so hot about it.

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter. @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Tuesday at 9 a.m. on “Live and Local — Now!” with Kevin Wall on KBET 790 AM.

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