An Avoidable Death Highlights NYC’s Willful Blindness to Sanctuary Threat

On the evening of January 6, Maria Fuertes, a 92-year-old known in her Queens, New York neighborhood as the “cat lady,” was sexually assaulted and killed steps from her home. The 21-year-old accused of her murder is Reeaz Khan, an illegal immigrant from Guyana. Among the brutal details of her death is the fact she was found lying on the street in 32-degree weather and had sustained a broken spine.

The almost-equally brutal fact is that Fuertes, who emigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, might still be alive if New York City officials were not blindly devoted to sanctuary policies.

Khan was in in NYPD custody on Nov. 27 after being charged with assaulting his own father and criminally possessing a weapon, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On the same day, ICE faxed a detainer request to the booking desk in Queens.

But officials chose not to honor it and Khan was set free. While tragic, it is not surprising. According to data first reported by the New York Daily News, the NYPD chose to refuse all 2,916 detainer requests from ICE issued between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. And on November 27, 2019, they made another choice not to comply.

“It was a deadly choice to release a man on an active ICE detainer back onto the streets after his first arrest included assault and weapon charges, and he now faces new charges, including murder,” said Thomas R. Decker, an field office director in New York. And, he noted, the sanctuary policies themselves still “threaten the safety of all residents of the five borough” of New York City.

While Khan’s denial of guilt is quite bizarre, the claims of innocence coming from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have been utterly detached from reality, hypocritical and willfully blind to his complicity.

“New York City has passed its own common-sense laws about immigration enforcement that have driven crime to record lows. There are 177 crimes under NYC law that trigger cooperation with federal authorities, if and when someone is convicted. That policy has kept us safe,” de Blasio tweeted in response to criticism from Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

“The last time crime was as low in New York City as it is right now, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and [President Trump] was in Queens — and in diapers. If you’re serious about keeping our country safe, quit spreading lies about the good work of the NYPD.”

In statements to the New York Times, an NYPD spokeswoman claimed they “did not receive an ICE detainer in regard to this individual,” while a mayoral aide Olivia Lapeyrolerie added that “it is shameful that the Trump administration is politicizing this tragedy.”

But Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence refuted those distortions of the truth in a Twitter post that included a transmission receipt which showed the fax detainer requested came through to the booking desk in Queens on Nov. 27 at 7:41 a.m.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for NYC to blame ICE for this tragic crime. The mayor & police chief have continually celebrated that they don’t honor ICE detainers, & to deflect the criticism for this completely preventable murder is incredibly disingenuous & shameful,” Albence tweeted.

He added that ICE “could’ve wallpapered the precinct with detainers & #NYPD would still not have honored them.”

Melinda Katz, the new Queens district attorney, has publicly expressed support for a lawsuit aiming to bar ICE from every courthouse in New York State and a so-called immigration hardship plea policy, which would take into account whether a conviction will result in possible deportation.

“It is imperative that our DA delivers fair justice for all,” said Katz in December 2018 while campaigning for the office.

No, it is imperative that elected and unelected officials in New York City understand that “fair justice” can only be delivered when the sanctuary policies that give greater protection to criminal aliens than to innocent, law-abiding residents are ended.

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