William McSwain, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania appointed by President Donald Trump, claimed again on Tuesday that Philly’s sanctuary city policies led to the rape of a child.
Rapist Juan Ramon-Vasquez, 50, a Honduran national who was previously convicted and sentenced to eight to 20 years in state prison, was sentenced Tuesday to 21 months in federal prison for illegally re-entering the US after being deported, McSwain’s office announced.
But the feds in their announcement of the sentence harshly criticized Philadelphia’s sanctuary city policies – saying Ramon-Vasquez, also known as Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa, raped a girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter after being was released from city custody in 2014 due to Philly’s controversial sanctuary city policy.
“The facts of this case illustrate all too well the direct threat to public safety caused by the city of Philadelphia’s sanctuary city policies,” McSwain said in a statement on Tuesday. “After the city let this criminal loose on the streets of Philadelphia, Ramon-Vasquez repeatedly raped his girlfriend’s daughter over an 18-month period.”
Ramon-Vasquez was previously deported in May 2009. ICE officers discovered he was back in the U.S. in March 2014, when Ramon-Vasquez was reportedly in custody in a Philadelphia prison. But Philadelphia released him, despite a detainer requesting the city to hold him until ICE could take him into custody, due to the city’s sanctuary city policies.
“ICE attempted to remove Ramon-Vasquez once before in March 2014, but the City of Philadelphia refused to honor our detainer and he was released back into the community,” Simona L. Flores, field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office in Philadelphia.
But Philly leaders pushed back against those claims.
“As we made clear when this matter first surfaced three years ago, the federal government failed to obtain an arrest warrant for this individual’s immigration offense in 2014,” said Kenney spokesman Mike Dunn via email. “If they had done so, the individual would have been released into their custody. Unfortunately, the federal government failed to meet this very simple legal obligation.”
Sanctuary city polices were kicked off in Philadelphia by former Mayor Michael Nutter via executive order in 2014. Just before leaving office in January 2016, Nutter amended the sanctuary city policy to allow certain types of information-sharing; but Mayor Jim Kenney reinstated the full policy on his first day in office later that month.
“If the ICE detainer had been honored by local law enforcement, this crime never would have happened, and the victim – an innocent child – would have been spared horrendous physical and mental trauma,” McSwain continued. “Criminals like Ramon-Vasquez take note: my office will do everything in its power to find you, to protect our community, and to seek justice for your victims. Unlike the Philadelphia government, we are not on your side.”
Dunn said that only warrants provide a “lawful, constitutional basis for continuing to detain someone,” adding that “an ICE detainer – a form signed by an ICE employee—is insufficient.”
After Ramon-Vasquez serves his state sentence, he will be transferred to federal custody to serve the 21 months, then deported back to Honduras.
According to the Inquirer, Ramon-Vasquez thanked the judge who sentenced him: “Thank you, because during the time I’ve been in jail the authorities have treated me very well,” he reportedly said.
The Trump administration and Philadelphia have sparred intensely over the city’s sanctuary city policies, with former US Attorney Jeff Sessions attempting to strip the city of some federal criminal justice funds as punishment for the policy. Those moves have been blocked by the courts, including most recently the Third Circuit appeals court in a decision earlier this month. ICE administrators have also previously stated that Philadelphia and Pennsylvania have faced increased enforcement by immigration officials due to the city’s sanctuary city policies.
But city leaders stand by the policies, which they say ensure members of immigrant communities will be more willing to cooperate with law enforcement and come forward to report on crimes by removing the fear that any involvement with authorities could end in their deportation.
“Despite claims that our policies are dangerous, they actually enhance all our residents’ safety,” Dunn said. “When all residents, including immigrants, trust the police, they report crime, are witnesses and access other city services. ICE’s failure to receive a judicial warrant is the underlying cause of this situation – not the city’s policies.”
In July 2018, Kenney took an additional step by granting the demand of protesters who spent weeks outside City Hall and cutting off federal law enforcement’s access to its PARS (Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System) real-time arrest database.