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November 26, 2016

Feds say Philly released Dominican national accused of child rape

ICE: Man arrested year after being set free under sanctuary city policy

Crime Sanctuary Cities
0711_Kenney_ICE_Immigration Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Jim Kenney advocates for "sanctuary city" policies during a rally at LOVE Park in July 2015.

Federal immigration officials are again using the case of the release of a foreign national accused of sex crimes to blast Philadelphia's sanctuary city policy.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a release Tuesday they have arrested Winston Enrique Perez Pilarte, aka Josue Duran-Cortes, 40, of the Dominican Republic, after Philadelphia police released the man a year earlier.

Philadelphia police had arrested Duran-Cortes and charged him with attempted rape, unlawful sexual contact with a minor, aggravated indecent assault and related charges.

ICE requested that local authorities detain Duran-Cortes and turn him over. But Philadelphia’s sanctuary city policy bars local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, and Duran-Cortes was released on bail.

Duran-Cortes was arrested by ICE in September and is awaiting a hearing in immigration court. Local charges against him are still pending.

"Our deportation officers will use every available resource at our disposal to find and arrest these alleged predators," said Tom Decker, Enforcement and Removal Operations Philadelphia field office director.

"However, one of our best resources to keep these dangerous criminals off of our streets and from committing more crimes is for the Mayor to honor our detainers and requests for notification."

In August, ICE requested that city authorities detain Honduran national Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa, who was also accused of raping a child.

In 2015, despite an ICE detainer request, Aguirre-Ochoa was released from local custody when charges against him in a separate case were dismissed.

Opponents of Philadelphia's sanctuary city status, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, used the incident to deride the city's policy.

Mayor Jim Kenney has maintained that the city's sanctuary city policy doesn't prevent immigration officials from doing their jobs. 

He's repeatedly said that if ICE wishes to detain someone, they could simply obtain an arrest warrant. Kenney has also said that the policy promotes trust between the community and police because undocumented residents are more likely to report a crime if they don't fear being deported.

In a statement to NewsWorks, Kenney spokesperson Lauren Hitt reiterated that point and said the arrest of Duran-Cortes shows ICE can do its job without the city's help.