ICE accuses Philadelphia of neglecting judicial arrest warrants of illegal immigrants

The city denies federal authorities' claims

Pat Loeb
June 28, 2018 - 6:52 pm
Demonstrators rally at Rittenhouse Square near a hotel hosting a GOP fundraiser with Vice President Pence. The demonstration is a reaction to children being separated from their families by immigration officials.

Joe Lamberti/Courier Post via USA TODAY NETWORK

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Federal immigration authorities are complaining that Philadelphia violated its own policy of honoring judicial arrest warrants for illegal immigrants two weeks ago when it released a domestic violence suspect. 

Philadelphia police arrested Guillermo Leon-Sandoval in the early morning of June 15. That same evening, he was released on his own recognizance. 

Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents came to police with the arrest warrant the next day.

"There's no way that we could have detained the individual or handed the individual over to federal authorities because we received the request after he was already released," he said.

Abernathy added that there was another problem with the warrant: The name and title under the judge's signature was incorrect, so the warrant did not appear to come from a judge. 

ICE said in an emailed statement it disagrees with the city's account but did not provide specifics.

ICE and the city have been in a long-running dispute over the city's policy of not detaining people without a judicial warrant. Earlier this month, ICE lost when a federal judge ruled that the city has a right to require one. This case gave ICE a chance to argue the city doesn't even respect judicial warrants, but Abernathy said that's not true.

"The city's policy is, has been and will continue to be to honor an arrest warrant signed by a judge," he said.

ICE did capture Leon-Sandoval, and he remains in federal custody.