Two ICE Detainees Escape

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FARMVILLE – Two detainees escaped Monday from the Immigration Centers of America-Farmville facility.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations officers are searching for the subjects, along with federal, state and local officers,” Brandon Montgomery, ICE Public Affairs Officer told The Herald in an email response to the paper's request for information.

One male is a Belize national, six-feet two inches tall, with black hair and brown eyes, and the second male is from Mexico, five-feet eight inches, with black hair and brown eyes, according to Montgomery.

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The two men escaped by “climbing over the fence surrounding the recreation yard and then under the gate on the west side of the facility during an outdoor recreation period,” Montgomery explained.

“Both have previous convictions but not for felony offenses,” Montgomery stated, later adding that both have previous criminal convictions “for non-violent offenses.

“Both subjects were last seen wearing navy blue jumpers,” he added, cautioning that “ICE officials ask that anyone who encounters these individuals does not attempt toapprehend them, but that anyone with information about the whereabouts of these two individuals should immediately contact the local ICE office at 1-202-345-5635 or call the national hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.”

Montgomery said, “local law enforcement officers were on the scene yesterday…According to reports they responded at 2:53 p.m. yesterday. They helped for approximately half an hour, then cleared the scene. Today, just ICE Fugitive Teams are still searching and following leads,” he stated in an email.

Though local police initially responded to the scene Monday afternoon, according to Montgomery's information, they are not actively searching for the two detainees, as Montgomery noted, and believe they are not permitted to try and apprehend the pair.

“It's really not a big thing,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told The Herald on Tuesday morning regarding the previous day's escape. “They're not criminals or anything. They were just picked up for not having their Green Card, so now they're back out on the street again.

“Nine times out of 10,” Spates added, “they probably would have been released anyway.”

In fact, the town manager said the Farmville Police Department is unable to even try and apprehend the two.

“We couldn't go after them because they're not charged with a crime…And they haven't been convicted of anything so there's absolutely, I mean, we cannot even go after them. We can't pick 'em up,” Spates said. “The only ones who can pick 'em up is ICE, because we don't enforce immigration laws.”

Spates added, “we notified the Feds and they didn't seem too concerned about it…”

Farmville Police Chief Doug Mooney told The Herald that his officers, and even the Virginia State Police, cannot pursue the two detainees.

Federal law doesn't permit it and, from a safety standpoint, pursuit, unless fully warranted, might create needless danger for residents, the police chief pointed out.

“What I can tell you is ICA, they publicize that they only house people not convicted of any violent crime and who have no pending charges, so the only thing that they're in there for is for immigration, violation of immigration laws,” the police chief said Tuesday. “So if they escape from there we cannot, local or State Police, are forbidden from enforcing federal immigration law, which means we can't chase people around because when police chase people it's a risk of somebody getting hurt or even killed because when we catch them, if they resist, we better have a good reason for putting our hands on them.

“So for that reason,” Chief Mooney explained, “it's one of those gray areas that the Feds can pick them up for immigration laws but we can't, unless they commit a crime…”

Farmville police did respond initially on Monday afternoon, the police chief said later and “were there probably a little bit longer than we should have…(But) we have an obligation to make a response because we don't know if they committed some type of crime in commission of leaving the facility, such as assaulting a detention center officer, or worse…so we have to make sure there's been no crime before we just say all we have is an immigration crime.”

No such crimes were committed on Monday, however.

Chief Mooney said he had checked with the State Police to confirm they, too, must leave immigration enforcement to the Feds at ICE.