Four suspects were arrested in relation to Bellevue’s first murder in three years. But Northwest officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are pointing to one of the suspects, saying that he would never have been on the street to commit murder in the first place had local law enforcement cooperated with ICE in the first place.
“We had not attempted to deport him (before) because unfortunately we could never get a hold of him,” Nathalie Asher with ICE’s Northwest branch told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “In fact, he came to our attention in March of 2019. He had been booked in the South Correctional Entity Jail … unfortunately our immigration detainers are flatly ignored here in the Pacific Northwest.”
“He had originally gone in for some lower-level charges, failure to comply, criminal trespass in the first degree,” Asher said. “… not necessarily violent, but clearly he graduated in his offenses as we know now has he has, pending, charges for homicide.”
“Each time, ICE lodged a detainer with the jail and of course they were flatly ignored,” she added. “He was released only to commit more egregious crimes. He had gone from theft third degree to malicious mischief, drug paraphernalia, and even had been booked in June for robbery. That’s a lot of activity, criminal activity, in the course of four months.”
Asher argues that the logic behind the region’s sanctuary policies is counter productive — it allows criminal elements to continue to pose a threat to the public. The majority of individuals ICE is focused on are people with criminal histories. Asher says that 90 percent of ICE’s work involves people with criminal convictions, pending charges, or re-entry after deportation.
But because they no longer receive cooperation with local law enforcement, pertaining strictly to people in the country committing crimes, Asher says ICE officials now have to spend their time in vulnerable communities that politicians often want to protect.
“More often than not, when we are conducting those targeted enforcement actions, we will come across those individuals who are associated with these folks who have no lawful authority to be here either,” she said. “Whereas, had we been able to go to jail and do our job for safe transfer, I would not be in the communities nor would I be encountering individuals other than my target.”
The other side of that argument is the fact Bellevue police investigators likely had to talk to people in the immigrant community, many who are not in the country legally, to track down the four suspects in the park murder. And that group is more apt to talk with authorities if they are not going to be asked about their immigration status.
Asher agrees with this.
“When individuals who are unlawful in the communities are complying and cooperating with law enforcement, it’s just not good sense to then threaten these individuals with deportation,” she said. “’We are going to get that information from you and now we are going to deport you.’ That is not how we operate … I’ve yet to hear of any examples of a case where this actually occurred. I have to remind your audience that more often than not, these criminal aliens prey upon their own communities.”
Even if law enforcement authorities cooperated with ICE, the department would still conduct immigration enforcement at large. But that would be greatly reduced if they could work directly with jails, she said.