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Denver Sheriff: Not releasing Mexican national now accused of murder would've violated Constitution

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Posted at 12:57 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 18:18:17-05

DENVER – The Denver Sheriff’s Department says that it would have violated the Fourth Amendment had it held a Mexican citizen now accused of murder without a warrant following an arrest last year.

Ever Valles, 19, was booked into the Denver jail on aggravated auto theft and vehicular eluding charges last October, and was released Dec. 20 after posting a $5,000 bond.

Valles was from Mexico and was put on a detainer for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after his arrest. Detainers are used by ICE officials to identify people arrested by law enforcement agencies that could be deported.

ICE has said that the Denver Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, never notified the agency of his release. It said that he was a noted gang member with prior convictions and was a deportation priority.

But the sheriff’s department provided a copy of the fax it sent ICE, though ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer maintained in a statement to Denver7 that the detainer “was not honored.”

On Feb. 7, Valles and another teen, Nathan Valdez, allegedly robbed and killed Tim Cruz, 32, at a Denver light rail station. Valles was again arrested Feb. 10.

Since the back-and-forth between the sheriff’s department and ICE officials last week, a slew of national media outlets have picked up the story. Breitbart’s headline for the story was “Denver police ignore immigration officers’ pleas, release alien before alleged murder.”

But the sheriff’s department pushed back against ICE officials again Tuesday in a lengthy statement, saying it followed proper procedures for detainers and the posting of bonds.

“Denver has never, and will never, condone dangerous or violent individuals being on our street, immigrants or not,” the statement said. “However, detaining anyone without a criminal warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Once individuals in Denver’s jails post a bond, the Sheriff Department has no legal ability to hold them without a warrant, as was the case with Ever Valles.”

Denver has been scrutinized in the wake of executive orders issued by President Donald Trump in his first month of the presidency that have greatly clamped down on undocumented immigrants.

Its mayor, police and sheriff’s department have all said that though Denver is not a so-called “sanctuary city,” they would adhere to federal enforcement but not actively help round up and deport people living here illegally.

Tuesday’s news release from the sheriff’s department further detailed its stance:

“Denver believes there has to be a better system for all of us to focus on criminals who mean harm while protecting residents who work hard every day and provide for their families. Denver is focused on enacting policies and practices that protect people’s safety and their rights, including the rights of immigrants, while allowing federal authorities to focus on immigration enforcement that removes dangerous and violent felons from our streets. We should all focus on creating a system where federal and local governments respect each other’s responsibilities and work together to close the gaps. Denver is committed to that effort.”

The sheriff’s department also Tuesday offered its condolences to Cruz’s family.

“The death of Tim Cruz was a tragedy, and the Denver Sheriff Department wishes to send its sincere condolences to his family and friends in this difficult time. The circumstances of this case painfully illustrate the difficult and separate responsibilities of local safety officials and federal immigration authorities.”

Valles and Valdez both appeared in court for their first appearances on various murder, kidnapping and robbery charges Tuesday afternoon. They will continue to be held without bond and are next due in court on April 14.

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