ICE Alleges Montgomery County Ignored Three Detainers for MS-13 Gang Member

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced last week that Enforcement and Removal Operations officers in Baltimore arrested an undocumented Salvadoran individual with a criminal history of unlawfully owning an unregistered firearm.

The 24-year-old unnamed individual, known to be a member of the MS-13 street gang, was apprehended at his residence in Silver Spring on January 10 by deportation officers from ERO Baltimore’s Criminal Apprehension Program.

According to MoCo360, ICE spokesperson James Covington stated that the agency does not disclose the names of noncitizens.

ICE said in a press release that the Salvadoran noncitizen entered the United States unlawfully in June 2014, when he was caught by the U.S. Border Patrol in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Initially classified as an unaccompanied noncitizen child, he was served with a notice to appear before an immigration judge for being present in the country without admission or parole.

Following his apprehension, he was transferred to ERO El Paso’s custody, then to the Office of Refugee Resettlement at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. Eventually, he was released to his mother’s custody in Rockville, Maryland, by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

An immigration judge ordered the noncitizen’s removal to El Salvador in absentia in August 2014 after he failed to attend his hearing. Subsequently, in November 2016, he was arrested by Montgomery County Police on charges related to assault and weapons offenses.

“This Salvadoran noncitizen represented a significant threat to the residents of our Maryland communities,” said ERO Baltimore Field Office Director Darius Reeves. “Not only is he a validated member of a notorious street gang, but he also displayed a willingness to unlawfully carry a firearm in public. ERO Baltimore will continue prioritize public safety by removing such threats from our streets.”

Despite several encounters with law enforcement, including arrests in 2016 and 2018, the noncitizen was released on various occasions due to declined immigration detainers, according to ICE. Most recently, in September 2022, he was convicted of illegally possessing an unregistered firearm by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County and sentenced to imprisonment followed by supervised probation.

In light of his criminal history and the continued challenges in securing his custody, ERO Baltimore lodged an immigration detainer against him in January 2023. The detainer was declined in August 2023, leading to his release from the Montgomery County Detention Center.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s spokesperson, Scott Peterson, told MoCo360 that the county was unaware of the incident until last week. Peterson stated that they did not receive a detainer from ICE for the individual in question and followed all legal procedures for the release. He mentioned that if there had been a detainer, ICE would have been notified before the release, as per their policy.

Peterson also confirmed that Elrich had not been contacted by ICE before their press release.

“We defer all follow-up questions about this individual and judicial process to ICE and the courts,” Peterson said to MoCo360, noting that Montgomery County is not a “sanctuary jurisdiction.” “We are following up with them ourselves regarding this issue.”

ICE said that as part of its efforts to apprehend removable noncitizens involved in criminal activities, the agency lodges immigration detainers to facilitate the transfer of individuals into their custody for removal proceedings.

“Detainers are a critical public safety tool because they focus enforcement resources on removable noncitizens who have been arrested for criminal activity,” ICE said. “Detainers increase the safety of all parties involved — ERO personnel, law enforcement officials, the removable noncitizens, and the public — by allowing an arrest to be made in a secure and controlled custodial setting as opposed to at-large within the community. Since detainers result in the direct transfer of a noncitizen from state or local custody to ERO custody, they also minimize the potential that an individual will reoffend. Additionally, detainers conserve scarce government resources by allowing ERO to take criminal noncitizens into custody directly rather than expending resources locating these individuals at-large.”

Photo: © danielfela – stock.adobe.com

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