Sheriffs of Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake counties, North Carolina, stopped honoring immigration detainers this year. Since their decision, local authorities released more than 500 criminal aliens during the past fiscal year, which ended September 30, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This, despite a 2015 state law banning sanctuary policies.
Most recently, it was Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller (D), who released illegal-alien child molester Marvin Ramirez Torres at the end of October. Torres had been in jail for more than two years and was ultimately convicted of “indecent liberties with a minor” on an eleven-year-old girl. Sentenced to a shockingly lenient 16 to 29 months, the time he had already served was applied to that sentence and he was released the next day. Despite ICE’s detainer request, Sheriff Miller’s jail released him into the community without even notifying the federal agency.
Thankfully, local District Attorney Todd Williams (D), concerned about Miller’s sanctuary policies, called United States Attorney Andrew Murray as soon as Torres was convicted, and he was in federal custody within a matter of days. Murray blasted Sheriff Miller for releasing him, saying “[a]s U.S. attorney and previously as district attorney for Charlotte, I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastating impact that sanctuary policies can have on a community … I’ve seen how these policies destroy the lives of innocent victims and their families.”
Sheriff Miller hid behind his claim that Buncombe County is not a sanctuary jurisdiction. This is what Center for Immigration Studies Andrew Arthur calls the “sanctuary jurisdiction fig leaf.” It is the idea that law enforcement officials would cooperate with ICE if the federal agency would simply give them an arrest warrant signed by a judge, rather than the administrative warrant that accompanies an immigration detainer signed by an ICE supervisor. Hundreds of the jurisdictions FAIR identified as sanctuaries in its 2018 survey have variations on this policy.
Here’s the glaring problem: Judicial warrants for immigration violations do not exist. Federal law simply does not provide for them because immigration is a civil and administrative matter, not a criminal one which a federal judge has authority to issue a warrant.
While Congress could theoretically create such warrants, they’ve wisely decided to leave the decision with ICE and not flood the federal courts with demands for judges to review those requests. Until Congress changes the law, a local official complaining that ICE won’t give them a judicial immigration warrant is essentially no different than demanding ICE provide them with a unicorn. They’re both imaginary.
Sanctuary officials, like Sheriff Miller, who claim they need a judicial warrant to hold dangerous criminal aliens for ICE confuse the public in order to shift the spotlight away from their reckless and lawless policies.