Foreign-born criminals who are supposed to be a prime target for federal immigration agents are instead slipping through the deportation net, an examination of Denver jail and Colorado court records shows.
The Rocky Mountain News looked at the records of inmates in the Denver County Jail May 17.
On that day, a Tuesday, federal immigration agents had ordered 35 of the inmates held for possible deportation, but there were no deportation holds on at least 94 other foreign-born inmates being held for major felonies.
Agents had placed detainers on two inmates listed on the roster as accused of murder and three being held for sexual assault. That meant they’d be turned over to immigration for deportation hearings in a federal immigration court after they were released or served their time on any criminal convictions.
But many foreign-born inmates had no deportation detainers, including at least three being held on murder charges, four on sexual assault charges, five on charges of sexual assault on a child, and dozens more charged in major crimes including assault, kidnapping and drug trafficking.
The News’ look at immigration practices at the Denver County Jail found:
• At least five of the inmates who were under ICE hold had histories of deportable felonies that had not been caught by immigration agents previously.
• Illegal immigrant defendants released on bail often escape the notice of immigration agents, said public defender Christine Antoun. Her office doesn’t see a pattern in which clients are detained by immigration. “It appears to be random,” she said.
• Denver’s pre-trial services department must make recommendations on the release of suspects on bail, while they await trial, without knowing whether they are illegal immigrants likely to flee. That’s because about 18 months ago, immigration agents stopped telling the Denver pre-trial services department if newly arrested suspects were in the country illegally, said department chief Virgil Robinson.
• ICE deliberately waits to file immigration detainers on jail inmates until they have been sentenced. That could result in some illegal immigrant inmates being freed on bond, having their cases dismissed or being sentenced to time served and leaving jail before ICE responds.
• Even when criminal illegal immigrants are deported, they often quickly return, to be arrested again by Denver police.