Santa Maria Police California Immigration Detainer Requests


Five days after being released from jail on a weapons charge illegal alien, Victor Aureliano Martinez, with illegal alien Jose Fernando Villagomez assaulted and killed Marilyn Pharis, a civilian Air Force contractor. Local Santa Barbara law enforcement blames conflicting state and federal laws regarding immigration detainer requests as the reason why Martinez, who has been arrested multiple times, was allowed to remain in the US illegally.

In May 2014 Martinez was arrested on an initial felony charge for drug and sexual assault, which was later modified to a misdemeanor battery charge. After the May incident U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed an "immigration detainer- notice of action," and asked to be notified prior to Martinez's release in order to take immigration enforcement action. He was released a week later without ICE being notified since the sheriff's office determined that their request did not meet the "immigration detention requirements".

ICE did not issue a detainer after the most recent Ramierez arrest. In a statement, ICE said "based on the agency's enforcement priorities after a thorough review of his case history showed he had no prior deportations or felony criminal convictions." That means the Administration's new Priority Enforcement Program did not consider an illegal alien with six arrests, including one for sexual assault, to be a priority.

In response to Pharis' murder the sheriff's office released a statement explaining that under state law local law enforcement may be held accountable for violating a person's constitutional rights for holding someone in custody based solely on an ICE detainer request. "Based upon the constraints created by the above noted laws, it is the policy of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, that DHS/ICE must obtain a court order or arrest warrant signed by a Federal judge or magistrate, before we will continue to maintain custody of an individual who does not have local charges that require the individual to be held in our custody," the statement said.

It continued, "The impact of these two laws causes a significant legal and moral conflict for California Sheriffs when handling ICE immigration detainer requests. It is imperative that the Federal government work to remedy this conflict and provide clear guidance to California Sheriffs."

Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin told reporters, "I think it starts in Washington, D.C., with this administration that we see and their policies. I think you can draw a direct line over to Sacramento with the policies of, I'm going to say, this governor and the Legislature. And I am not remiss to say that from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento, there's a blood trail into the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis".

In an effort to learn how Martinez slipped through the cracks, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has demanded all "immigration history, immigration status, and criminal history" information on both men be given to the committee by August 15th. He also wants to know if Martinez applied for deferred deportation status. In his letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Sen. Grassley wrote, "Clearly, there has been a total breakdown in cooperation between local and federal law enforcement that allowed this alleged killer to be released and, despite his lengthy and violent criminal record, never deported". Grassley also cited sanctuary cities saying, "Clearly, sanctuary city policies are wreaking havoc on citizens, and especially on women".

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Updated: Thu, Jun 15th 2017 @ 3:08pm EDT