BY JILL CUENI-COHEN/ FEBRUARY 22, 2017
An illegal immigrant from El Salvador, 19-year-old Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, has admitted to being a member of a notorious gang. But thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Sanctuary City” law, Velasquez was released from New York’s Rikers Island prison on February 16 after serving time for disorderly conduct.
“This man is by his own admission a member of a violent street gang and he was released back into the community,” Thomas Decker, field office director for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit in New York, told the New York Post Tuesday. “Honoring a detainer request is not about politics, it is about keeping New York citizens safe.”
Velasquez was ordered to be deported by an immigration judge in November 2015, but when the MS-13 gang member was done with his prison sentence, ICE officials were not alerted. Instead, Velasquez had to be tracked down by agents and is now in detention pending deportation, ICE said in a statement.
ICE agents found Velasquez in Queens, New York the same day he was released from prison.
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According to federal officials, Velasquez’s criminal history in the U.S. includes second-degree reckless endangerment, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and disorderly conduct.
However, none of these crimes is mentioned on New York City’s list of approximately 170 offenses deemed to be serious or violent enough for him to be deported under de Blasio’s 2014 Sanctuary City law. In such cases, federal agents are not notified when illegal immigrants are released from jail.
City Hall spokesperson Rosemary Boeglin said that Velasquez’s “gang affiliation was not supported by evidence that meets even minimal constitutional standards.” She further stated, “When ICE presents evidence to our city that an individual in our custody has been convicted of a violent or serious offense — one that threatens the public’s safety — we will fully cooperate.”
Decker remarked to reporters that New York City officials are “creating a potentially unsafe environment for its residents.” He added, “When ICE has a detainer on an illegal immigrant with a criminal record, they should be turned over to the federal government — no questions asked. The lowlifes who are committing crimes — get them out of here.”