Federal officials and the San Francisco sheriff are at odds over who is responsible for the release from custody of an illegal immigrant with a criminal history who later allegedly shot and killed a father and two of his sons.
The agency that enforces federal immigration law charged that The City released Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, before checking to see if Ramos should be held for deportation — contradicting an assertion by San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey that federal officials were properly notified.
The verbal battle between local and federal law enforcement officials comes as San Francisco is under attack for its Sanctuary Ordinance, which prohibits city officials from reporting illegal immigrants unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant. An exception to the rule, however, is that local law enforcement officers may inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that they have arrested someone for a felony offense or who has a prior felony conviction if officers become aware that the arrested person is an illegal immigrant.
ICE spokesman Tim Counts said an internal investigation completed Tuesday revealed that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department released Edwin Ramos, 21, on April 2, two hours before it notified federal officials of his immigration status.
By the time ICE officials responded to the Sheriff’s Department to say that Ramos should be held, they discovered he had already been released from custody, Counts said.
"I know that the sheriff has been saying otherwise on TV, but we received no communication from the Sheriff’s Office about Ramos prior to releasing him," Counts said.
Two months after he was released, San Francisco police pinned Ramos for the June 22 slayings of Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, following a traffic altercation.
Hennessey was quick to counter and criticize the accusation.
"I believe their information is incomplete and incorrect," Hennessey said. "I'm sorry that the dialogue has stooped to this level, but I look forward to working with them cooperatively in the future. That's my statement."
Hennessey said he faxed ICE about Ramos before releasing him and received no response until after Ramos was released.
"If there’s no hold [mandated], there’s no reason to hold a person, you have to let him go. Otherwise, it’s false imprisonment," Hennessey said.
Ramos, along with another man, was arrested March 30 after the second man tried to dispose of a handgun later found to be used in a double murder. The gun could not be connected to Ramos, however, and so the charges were dropped, said Hennessey.
"We notified ICE, the charges were dropped against him," Hennessey said. "If [ICE officials] don't put a hold on a person, a person is released because we have no legal cause to hold them any longer."
In 1989, San Francisco passed the "City of Refuge" Ordinance (also known as the Sanctuary Ordinance) which prohibits City employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant.
How does the Sanctuary Ordinance impact law enforcement?
While the Police Department and Sheriff’s Department do not generally share information with federal immigration agents, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, local law enforcement officers may inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that they have arrested someone for a felony offense or who has a prior felony conviction, if officers become aware that the arrested person is an undocumented immigrant.
Source: City of San Francisco, Sanctuary City — Frequently Asked Questions