After capturing an illegal immigrant wanted for sexually abusing a child, a North Carolina sheriff decided to release the dangerous sex offender. However, once his move garnered a backlash, he immediately blamed immigration officials for endangering the public.
Marvin Torres was arrested by Buncombe County Police on allegations of sexual contact with a child. Once the officers ran his information through the international database, they discovered that Torres was wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had a detainer on the suspect.
Initially, Buncombe County officials held Torres in police custody so that ICE agents could obtain a warrant for his transfer of custody. However, after the immigrant’s conviction, the sheriff made a decision that shocked his community.
The same week that Marvin Torres was convicted of indecent liberties with a minor,” Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller opted to release the sex offender. Disturbingly, Miller then went on to justify his decision to free a wanted child molester into society by blaming ICE officials and stating that his department doesn’t “make or enforce immigration laws,” according to the Miami Herald.
“Mr. Torres was in the custody of the Buncombe County Detention Center for more than two years with the full knowledge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During that time ICE sent a detainer request, but failed to secure an arrest warrant and therefore Mr. Torres met the conditions of his release set forth by the judicial system,” the statement said.
The decision comes on the heels of Torres’ conviction, in which a judge sentenced Torres to time served for being held in custody for two years. It was this ruling that prompted Sheriff Miller to release Torres without warning. Soon after, Miller addressed the media in a press conference in which he lambasted ICE and voiced support for the “immigrant community,” the Citizen-Times reports.
“The sheriff’s office will continue to comply with all applicable state and federal laws, however, we do not make or enforce immigration laws; that is not part of our law enforcement duties,” Miller said. “It is vital that members of our immigrant community can call the sheriff’s office without fear when they are in need of assistance from law enforcement.”
Despite Miller’s promise that his department will hand over suspects as long as ICE obtains a criminal warrant, he knows that this is a catch-22. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox explained that Sheriff Miller knows that it’s impossible for immigration officials to obtain such a warrant.
“There is no process available for ICE, under the law, for a criminal warrant to be provided for a civil matter, which is what the Immigration and Nationality Act, passed by Congress, is,” he said.
Still, Sheriff Miller continued to blame ICE for failing to obtain a warrant for Torres’ arrest, arguing that they are responsible for enforcing laws involving immigrants. However, Miller is just one of several sheriffs in North Carolina’s largest counties who have refused to cooperate with ICE, rejecting detainer requests and releasing illegal immigrant criminals before agents can obtain warrants.
“If ICE is aware of an individual that they have determined to be a danger to the public safety of Buncombe County then ICE should obtain a warrant for their arrest. Once that warrant has been secured my deputies will work to apprehend that individual,” the sheriff said in a statement.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis condemned Miller’s excuses for releasing Torres. He has since vowed to introduce new federal legislation that will require sheriffs to comply with ICE detainer requests, forcing them to hold a wanted person without a warrant.
“This is yet another example of how reckless sanctuary policies are putting dangerous criminals back into our communities and impeding the ability of federal law enforcement to do their jobs. A handful of North Carolina sheriffs are providing sanctuary to murderers, rapists, and child molesters instead of simply transferring them to ICE so they can be deported,” Tillis said. “It’s a dereliction of their duty to keep North Carolinians safe.”
Similarly, Carl Mumpower, chair of the Buncombe County GOP, explained that Miller’s duplicitous policy is both bad for the community and unlawful. Mumpower suggests that the sheriff has purposefully tied the hands of federal agents in order to favor illegal immigrants.
“Selective application of the law is the foundation of chaos, not safety, and I see this as a short sighted and ill-advised action by our sheriff; I also think it’s dangerous,” he said. “The sheriff’s reasoning is the equivalent of my refusing to report a neighborhood fire because it’s not my house. That level of judgment is risky and will further undermine the morale confidence and safety of deputies already operating in a hostile reality.”
In order to back his decision, Sheriff Miller has claimed that he went to his deputies to ask for their opinion and they expressed support for his personal judgment. As such, he plans to continue releasing wanted suspects and convicts as long as ICE doesn’t come up with the unobtainable criminal warrants.
Hopefully, citizens of Buncombe County will remember Sheriff Miller’s policy when election time rolls around. The community deserves a department that will place its citizens’ safety above the feelings of lawbreakers.