Published July 23, 2008
Local and federal authorities in San Francisco are pointing the figure at each other over who is to blame for the March release of an illegal immigrant now charged with triple murder.
Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department are blaming each other for the release of Edwin Ramos, 21, the Salvadoran national charged with the murders last month of Anthony Bologna and his two sons as they were returning home from a picnic.
The case prompted public outcry after it emerged that when Ramos was 17, because of the city's sanctuary policy, local officials did not contact the feds to determine his immigration status when he was convicted on two gang-related felonies. He also was arrested with an acquaintance earlier this year on a gun charge.
"When he was arrested in March, we notified ICE of his arrest and they did not put a detainer on him," San Francisco Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst told FOXNews.com.
ICE officials in Los Angeles told FOX affiliate KTVU-TV that Ramos was released by mistake, and that a log shows that local officials released him before they could issue a detainer.
"They're saying this because they're feeling some heat," San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey told KTVU-TV. "For example, in the past 18 months I've turned over 1,100 people to ICE, so it's not like we have a system that doesn't work."
Hirst said the document ICE officials cited in the Ramos case was not a valid detainer, but an inquiry over prisoner reimbursement made after ICE was notified of Ramos' arrest.
Had a detainer been placed on Ramos after the gun charge was dropped, he would have been held by authorities for ICE agents for 24 hours.
"Those charges were dropped, and without a detainer, we cannot hold someone in custody," Hirst said.
An ICE official told FOXNews.com late Tuesday that the sheriff's department did not notify federal officials of Ramos' detention until after he was released.
Robert Amparan, Ramos' lawyer, did not return a call for comment, but he said Monday that his client was in the country legally.
"I can tell you that he did not enter the country illegally. I can tell you that he married a U.S. citizen and was in the process of getting his citizenship," Amparan told KTVU-TV. "Because of the way my client, Mr. Ramos, is being portrayed in the media, his rights are being violated. False information is being placed out there."
The case has caused an uproar in San Francisco, a city that just recently learned its juvenile probation department was deporting offenders themselves rather than notifying federal officials, because of its 1989 "City of Refuge" sanctuary policy. Those deportations stopped in May after the U.S. Justice Department contacted the city.
"The entire policy involving what happens with illegal immigrants when they have, in fact, been convicted of felonies, this city needs to reexamine that policy frankly, without reference to this particular incident," former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown told FOX News on Tuesday. "Before this occurred, Mayor [Gavin] Newsom had already said, ‘I will do my best to change the policy to most appropriately reflect the protections and the safety of the citizens of this city.’"
But Bologna's widow wants the city to do more than that.
"It should have been resolved at the beginning, when this guy had done more than one crime in the city," she told FOX News on Monday. "I want justice. I want the people to see. If my family wasn’t safe, what makes you think yours will be?"
Ramos is expected in court Wednesday to enter a plea on the murder charges.