In the escalating battle between California officials and President Trump over immigration, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday contested a statement by the president that the LAPD had released an immigrant in the country illegally who then committed a murder.
“They let him go, and he killed somebody,” Trump said during a White House roundtable.
In fact, Beck told the city’s civilian Police Commission, the murder occurred last summer, before the man was arrested in January on suspicion of a minor narcotics violation.
Trump accused the LAPD of releasing the man despite a request from federal immigration officials to detain him for an additional period of time.
There was no such request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Beck said.
“Not that we would have honored it, anyway, because we believe those requests are illegal,” the police chief said.
Beck said the murder occurred in the Van Nuys area and may have been related to the narcotics trade and the Blythe Street gang. He identified the man as Juan Ramirez.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
An ICE spokeswoman said that Ramirez, 30, a Mexican citizen, was arrested by the LAPD on Nov. 27, 2017, and Jan. 7, 2018. Both times, she said, ICE issued detainer requests, which were not honored, and Ramirez was released.
On Feb. 26, Ramirez was arrested on suspicion of murder, and he is still in custody. An ICE detainer has been issued in this arrest as well, she said.
“Statements that ICE failed to file detainers for each of Mr. Ramirez’ arrests are incorrect,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Rodriguez. “ICE has placed three detainers on Mr. Ramirez in the last six months, all of which were not honored, leaving Mr. Ramirez free to reoffend in an escalating fashion rather than be placed in immigration court proceedings and removed from the United States.”
Trump’s remarks came in a meeting last week with California officials who oppose their state’s new “sanctuary” law, which limits communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials, including the honoring of the hold requests referenced by Trump.
Under such requests, local law enforcement officials are asked to hold criminal suspects for up to 48 hours beyond their release dates so immigration agents have more time to pick them up for possible deportation. Some courts have held that the practice violates the 4th Amendment.
Officials in some California cities, particularly in Orange County, have recently adopted resolutions opposing Senate Bill 54, the state’s sanctuary law that went into effect in January, arguing that it puts dangerous criminals back on the streets. Supporters of the law say it creates a needed separation between local police and immigration enforcement, encouraging immigrants to report crimes and serve as witnesses.
Beck supported the law when many other California law enforcement officials opposed it, providing a key endorsement before its passage. His tenure as Los Angeles Police Department chief, which will end with his retirement June 27, has been marked by his support for immigrants in the country illegally, beginning with a controversial policy restricting police officers’ power to impound the cars of unlicensed drivers.
Trump’s reference to the LAPD came early during remarks in which he also recommended an obstruction of justice investigation into Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for impeding a federal roundup.
“The state of California’s attempts to nullify federal law have sparked a rebellion by patriotic citizens who want their families protected and their borders secured,” Trump said. “They want border security. They want protection. That’s what we’re all about. We’re about protection, both from international and from, frankly, people crossing our border illegally.”
Trump has also accused California law enforcement of being soft on gangs, saying in February that there would be a “crime mess like you’ve never seen” if federal agents pull out of the state.
Since Trump’s election, Beck has doubled down on statements that the LAPD will not enforce immigration laws and is instead focused on building relationships with city residents, regardless of where they were born.
In March 2017, Beck attributed a drop in sexual assault and domestic violence reports by Latino residents to fears that interacting with the police could lead to deportation under Trump’s strict policies. The LAPD held a series of community meetings to address the fears, and the reporting numbers have stabilized.
Police Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill praised Beck for refuting Trump’s statement.
“I appreciate the chief being so emphatic in defending the actions of the department in not cooperating with ICE, in compliance with the values of the city, the mayor and the commission,” she said.