ICE blames DC for preventing arrest of Union Station vandal deported four times

By Anna Giaritelli | Washington Examiner

The federal immigration agency responsible for arresting and deporting illegal immigrants blamed the policies of Washington, D.C., for not allowing it to detain a Mexican man who vandalized a local building with pro-Nazi drawings despite his extensive criminal history.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Washington Examiner this week that it did not make an attempt to take custody of Geraldo Pando after he was arrested by local police for defacing the outside of Union Station with swastikas. Pando has a 15-year criminal history and has been deported four times, ICE wrote in an email.

“ICE has not issued a detainer on Pando because the District of Columbia is a non-cooperative jurisdiction and the Washington D.C. jail is barred from honoring ICE detainers due to a federal District Court ruling, and city ordinance,” ICE said in an email.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors more restrictive immigration rules, said ICE dropped the ball.

“This sounds to me like ICE really bears responsibility for not acting on this individual. You can’t blame this on D.C. Their job is to go ahead and issue the detainer or try to take custody, regardless of the sanctuary policy,” said Vaughan.

The detainer is a request that ICE sends to the local jail asking that a specific person be held for up to 48 hours until federal officers can transfer him or her into its custody.

“There are cases where the locals want to cooperate with ICE even though they’re operating under a sanctuary policy,” Vaughan said. “They may feel that these are special circumstances, and they may not honor the detainer, but they may choose to notify ICE the minute that person is coming out of their custody to make it easy for ICE to take custody.”

Most large U.S. cities like Washington, known legally as noncooperative jurisdictions, have implemented sanctuary policies as a means of protecting immigrants.

As a “sanctuary city,” the D.C. City Council has barred its police and jail personnel from keeping an illegal immigrant in custody so that federal law enforcement may transfer him or her into its custody — meaning any detainer that ICE issues will likely not be approved. The lack of cooperation means ICE will instead attempt to arrest a person of interest while he or she is in public, including at home or at work.

Additionally, a ruling in the case N.S. v. Hughes, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January 2020, limits federal agents’ ability to take custody of illegal immigrants without a warrant or order.

Pando, 34, was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with the display of certain emblems and defacing private/public property for drawing the Nazi symbol on the exterior walls of the train station, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol. 

The Washington Examiner first reported last week that Pando had been deported twice and had a 15-year criminal history while illegally residing in the United States. 

In an email Monday, ICE confirmed the two deportations and disclosed two additional times that the government had flown him back to Mexico.

“He was first encountered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Aurora, Colorado, following a May 11, 2006 local arrest. Pando has been removed from the United States on four prior occasions (once each in 2006, 2007, 2014, and 2017),” an ICE spokesman said in a statement.

Pando first entered the U.S. illegally as a minor and was encountered by federal border agents near the border in El Paso, Texas, in June 1990. The government did not reveal how Pando reentered the U.S. following each of the four removals.

Arrest records obtained by the Washington Examiner last week revealed that Pando had an extensive 35-page criminal history in Colorado before he arrived in Washington, D.C., recently. Pando was also arrested a week prior to the Union Station incident for vandalizing the U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, according to a senior Senate aide familiar with Pando’s run-ins with federal, state, and local law enforcement. Capitol Police released him because ICE did not ask that he be detained until he could be transferred into federal custody.

Despite his history, Pando did not meet Biden administration standards for arrest because he fell outside new guidelines for whom ICE can arrest without obtaining a supervisor’s approval — someone deemed a national security threat; who illegally entered the country after Nov. 1, 2021; or who was convicted of an aggravated felony or affiliated with a gang. A senior ICE official out of the Washington office would have needed to exempt Pando from those criteria in order for officers to arrest him but likely did not because other rules barred ICE from acting.

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