Wake County sheriff responds to criticism from ICE for not honoring detainer

The Wake County Sheriff’s office responded to criticism Friday from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for refusing to honor an ICE detainer for a convicted sex offender.

ICE arrested Furmencio Miranda-Cortazar, 45, a Mexican citizen on Sept. 21. He was arrested in July 2018 and spent 11 months in Wake County Detention Center. He was released in June, the same day he was convicted for sexual battery against a child less than 13 years of age.

In a news release, ICE said, “The Wake County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor the ICE detainer and instead released him back into the community.”

But the sheriff’s office said in a statement that ICE “failed to secure an arrest warrant” while Miranda-Cortazar was in their custody. The man was released with credit for time served, the sheriff’s office said.

Detainers allow law enforcement agencies to continue to maintain custody of an alien for up to two days so that ICE can take them into custody to deport them. Detainers must be submitted with an arrest warrant or warrant of removal, according to a definition from the release.

Miranda-Cortazar was charged for incidents that occurred in 2015.

WRAL, citing court records, reports he was sentenced to consecutive 150-day jail terms. He also had to register as a sex offender and give $3,000 to a child advocacy group.

“This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released into Wake County rather than into ICE custody due to the current sheriff’s policy on ICE non-cooperation,” said John Tsoukaris, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Atlanta Interim Field Office Director.

“The Wake County sheriff’s continued decision to refuse cooperation with ICE serves as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that Wake County is a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Wake County are less safe today than last year due these policies,” he said.

There has been continued tension between ICE and North Carolina sheriffs over immigration policies and whether they should allow undocumented immigrants to leave jail without notifying ICE. Durham and Orange county sheriffs have said they wouldn’t honor the detainers.

Last month, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 370, The News & Observer reported. It would have required sheriffs to comply with ICE detainer requests.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.