Society

Sanctuary City Almost Freed Child Predator

| by Sheena Vasani

Sanctuary city policy not to cooperate with immigration officials at a Texas jail nearly freed an immigrant accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.

On Feb. 12, Hugo Javier Gallardo-Gonzalez, who is in the country illegally, was booked into jail when the sheriff's office declined a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer -- also known as an immigration hold -- because it didn't meet their county's criteria, KEYE reports.

This allowed the man to post bail. Before he was able to leave, the detainer was reinstated after department authorities received an affidavit revealing details about the aggravated nature of the alleged sexual assault.

"The Travis County Sheriff's Office intends to review this matter and consider possible policy modifications to account for similar future issues," said a department spokesman.

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The mistake caught the attention of those immersed in the debate over sanctuary cities, adding fuel to those who argue these cities makes Americans unsafe.

"This is a public safety issue," said Republican Texas State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, who is pushing for a bill that would force authorities to cooperate with ICE. "It's not a political issue." 

"These folks are dangerous, and we want our communities to be safe," Buckingham added. "And so we're going to continue to fight, but it's time for the citizens to stand up and share their outrage as well." 

Some might argue Gallardo-Gonzalez's case may be the exception to the rule rather than the norm, pointing out the times the ICE has also mistakenly endangered U.S. citizens.

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In 2011, U.S. Army veteran Rennison Vern Castillo spent more than seven months detained by ICE, even though he is a naturalized U.S. citizen, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

"They were disrespectful and told me that I would say anything to get out of detention," Castillo, who was also on the brink of being deported, said. "It was a nightmare."

Federal authorities later apologized.

"I believe that none of my clients ... would ever have wanted to, or knowingly would have, detained a veteran and U.S. citizen," later apologized Philip H. Lynch, chief of the civil division in the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We very much regret that you were detained."

Sources: KEYE, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: Austin Police Department via Valley Central

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