The Trump administration took renewed aim at New York City’s so-called sanctuary policies on Friday after the recent arrest of an undocumented Guyanese man on charges that he raped and murdered a 92-year-old woman in Queens.
Matthew T. Albence, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accused the city of allowing the accused killer of the woman, Maria Fuertes, to walk free months ago when he should have been held for possible deportation.
“A phone call, one simple phone call, and Ms. Fuertes would be alive today,” Mr. Albence said at a news conference at ICE headquarters in Lower Manhattan.
His criticism echoed complaints from his agency this week, after the arrest of the suspect, Reeaz Khan. The Jan. 6 rape and murder of Ms. Fuertes has become a flash point in the broader debate over immigration and so-called sanctuary cities, where officials have resisted deputizing law enforcement to help federal immigration authorities detain and deport undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Khan, of Richmond Park, Queens, had been arrested in November and accused of beating his father in an altercation. ICE officials said that at the time the agency had asked the New York Police Department to hold Mr. Khan under what is called a detainer request.
A detainer asks local law enforcement authorities to hold undocumented immigrants who have been charged or convicted of crimes for 48 hours after their release so that immigration agents can pick them up for possible deportation.
New York’s detainer law and policy mandates that officials turn over to ICE only those who are convicted of violent and serious offenses, and only when ICE has met legal and due process requirements.
Mr. Khan, 21, was released shortly after he was arraigned on charges of assault and criminal possession of a weapon in relation to the altercation with his father. He was arrested again last week and charged with the murder of Ms. Fuertes.
The Police Department disputed the claim, saying it did not receive a detainer request when Mr. Khan was first arrested. ICE responded by releasing a copy of the fax transmission form appended to the detainer, which was dated Nov. 27, the same day as the arrest.
“How much more do you need? Should he have beat up his mother, too? Should he kick the dog?” Mr. Albence said. “How much more do you need to take enforcement action against an illegal alien?”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio called Ms. Fuertes’s death “an absolute tragedy.”
“Fear hate and attempts to divide are signatures of the Trump Administration, not New York City. We are the safest big city in America because of our policies, not in spite of them,” said the spokeswoman, Freddi Goldstein.
Mr. Albence excoriated New York’s sanctuary policies beyond the death of Ms. Fuertes, saying the city refused to honor thousands of detainers and failed to cooperate in other ways, such as barring ICE agents from conducting interviews in city jails.
Of the more than 7,500 detainer requests issued to the New York Police Department last year, the police honored only about 10, Mr. Albence said.
President Trump has repeatedly attacked sanctuary cities — which include New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco — saying that refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to transfer those arrested into the custody of ICE jeopardizes public safety, and that such places have become havens for criminals.
Since his 2016 campaign for president, Mr. Trump has called attention to cases in which people were killed or harmed by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities and beyond, including that of Kathryn Steinle, who was killed in San Francisco, and whose alleged murderer was ultimately acquitted.
The Trump administration has threatened to withhold millions of dollars in federal funding for law enforcement programs in New York, and ICE has detained a growing number of undocumented residents here, including around courthouses.
During his news conference, Mr. Albence said there had been a more “visible presence” of ICE officers in communities around the country during the last two or three years because of sanctuary policies.
“We are not going to turn a blind eye and put innocent people at risk because the law enforcement agencies in certain jurisdictions don’t, don’t or can’t, work with us,” he said.
Mr. Khan was arrested on Jan. 10 after the police had released surveillance video asking for the public’s assistance in finding a man suspected of attacking Ms. Fuertes, who was found unconscious and partially exposed behind a parked vehicle near her home in South Richmond Hill.
Ms. Fuertes, who collected cans around her neighborhood and was described as a beloved figure in her community, later died of her injuries.
Mr. Khan is scheduled to appear in court next week in connection with the charges that he assaulted his father.
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