SARASOTA, Fla. -- “The immigration laws we have now to work with are as clear as mud,” says Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight. The sheriff points to the case of Carlos Echeverria-Pena. He’s been arrested twice in two months. His first run-in with the law was in January for a road rage incident in North Port.
“We tried to get him deported and we can’t get him deported. He bonds out goes back and commits another crime,” says Knight.
Deputies arrested Pena again today for having a fake permanent resident card and social security card.
“This is an area of law still under flux,” says Skip Martin, an immigration attorney in Sarasota.
Martin says, “Under the Obama administration it was very liberal as far as what they were enforcing and who they would pick up.”
When Pena was first arrested, President Obama was still in office. ICE’s priorities then were to detain illegals who reentered the country after deportation. ICE says Pena had never been deported.
“To be an illegal in the United States doesn’t violate any criminal law,” explains Martin.
ICE’s other priority was to detain illegal immigrants “convicted” of a violent or serious crime. An ICE official says Pena had never been convicted of a crime.
But under President Trump, the rules changed. ICE says since February 20th the Trump administration loosened the guidelines and now any undocumented immigrant who is “charged” with a crime that has not been resolved can be detained by immigration authorities.
Martin says, “If now under the Trump administration enforcement of the law is more strictly they’ll have to allocate more resources, it will take more ICE officers, more immigration courts, and detention facilities.”
Sheriff Knight says, “It’s very frustrating for law enforcement for our nation. Congress started 20 years ago to work on this issue and other issues. My question to Congress and legislators when will something happen…change? So we in law enforcement don’t have to do the federal government’s job. They can give clear standards ideas what they want us to do to corroborate with Ice, Homeland Security to keep our community safe.”
ICE says this morning it filed a detainer to arrest Pena and hold him the minute he steps out of the Sarasota county jail. An ICE official says illegal immigrants are not rounded up and deported. Instead, each one is held at a detention facility, their case goes before an immigration judge and he or she decides if they are deported back to their country of origin.
“My job is to keep Sarasota County safe. If I can see Carlos Pena out of Sarasota County I know he’s not going to escalate his violence in this community to a more violent crime than a road rage incident.”
The immigration attorney says even though ICE has filed a detainer for Pena...it cannot force law enforcement to hold him indefinitely.