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December 08, 2017

ICE seeking to deport Liberian man convicted of indecent assault in Philly

ICE officials blast Philly's status as 'sanctuary city'

Immigration authorities are seeking to remove a Liberian man who was convicted of aggravated assault in Delaware County and required to register as a sex offender after being convicted of additional charges in Philadelphia.

Holston Doe, 42, who entered the United States legally in 2004, was convicted on Aug. 8 of aggravated assault and resisting arrest – charges that stemmed from an incident in Brookhaven in July 2015. He was sentenced to 23 months in jail and probation.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lodged a detainer against Doe, but Delaware County officials instead sent him to Philadelphia on outstanding criminal charges. 

In Philly, Doe was convicted on October 16 of indecent assault and sentenced to two years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.

ICE had lodged a second detainer with Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia after Doe was transferred. Despite that detainer, Doe was released from local custody without notification to immigration officials.

ICE officials took Doe into custody on December 1 in Philadelphia. He is being held by ICE pending removal proceedings.

Simona Flores, field director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations, criticized Philly officials for ignoring the detainer.

"When some law enforcement agencies fail to honor detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE's ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission," Flores said in a statement. "ERO officers are dedicated to keeping our communities safe and we will continue to arrest aliens that present public safety threat."

As a so-called "sanctuary city," Philadelphia police are instructed to disregard detainer requests unless they are supported by a judicial warrant and involve a person being released after conviction for a first- or second-degree violent felony.

ICE did not provide a judicial warrant for Doe, city spokesperson Ajeenah Amir said. 

"We need these types of warrants because otherwise ICE is putting the city at significant risk of financial liability," Amir said. "Lehigh County had to pay out nearly $100,000 after they complied with an ICE detainer request that lacked a warrant."

Mayor Jim Kenney has been an ardent supporter of the city's "sanctuary" status, arguing it creates trust between police and immigrants, who otherwise might be afraid to report crimes in fear of deportation.

"Sanctuary cities" have sparked considerable political debate, with the Trump administration attempting to cut federal funding to Philadelphia and other cities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities. Opponents claim they leave violent criminals on the streets.

Proponents have won several victories in the court systems in recent weeks.

In late November, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot withhold federal funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program – commonly known as JAG funding.

Several days later, a federal judge in California blocked a separate executive order that he ruled would have encompassed "all federal grants."

The debate over "sanctuary cities" took center stage on Nov. 30 when a San Francisco jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant charged with murdering Kate Steinle.

Steinle was a 32-year-old woman who was shot to death as she and her father walked along a San Francisco pier in July 2015. 

President Donald Trump tweeted his disgust following the verdict. Many opponents of "sanctuary cities" vowed to boycott San Francisco. 

Her death intensified the debate surrounding "sanctuary cities," with Pennsylvania Pat Toomey taking a lead in legislative efforts to withhold federal funding from municipalities that adopt such policies.

Garcia Zarate, who was wanted for a sixth deportation when the Steinle shooting occurred, is now facing federal charges brought by Sessions.