North Carolina Sanctuary County Releases Honduran Charged With Rape, Child Sex Offenses

August 16, 2019 Updated: August 18, 2019

Nine months after new Sheriff Garry McFadden implemented sanctuary policies in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, his jail released a previously deported Honduran man who was charged with rape and child sex offenses.

Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo, 33, was arrested on June 14 by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for first-degree rape and two counts of indecent liberties with a child.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said it issued a detainer on June 15, requesting custody, or for the jail to notify the agency when Pacheco would be released, but he was released from Mecklenburg County custody on June 16 with no communication to ICE.

“This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released onto the streets of Mecklenburg County rather than into ICE custody, due to the current sheriff’s policy on ICE non-cooperation,” said ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Gallagher.

After his release, Pacheco was at large for two months before ICE tracked him down and arrested him.

“By releasing a previously deported alien facing serious criminal charges, Mecklenburg County chose to release a serious public safety threat onto the streets of Charlotte, where he was free to potentially harm others for nearly two months until his capture by ICE,” ICE said in an Aug. 15 press release.

Since his election in November 2018, McFadden has said his department won’t honor ICE detainers, or notify ICE when the jail is releasing an inmate with a detainer. He says ICE still has access to the jail database and can find that out for themselves.

ICE published a list of an additional 22 illegal aliens that had been charged with egregious crimes and released by Mecklenburg jails that refuse to cooperate with ICE.

The 22 illegal aliens hail from India, Afghanistan, Liberia, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala.

Three of them were charged with multiple counts of sex offenses against children. Two of the three have been subsequently found and arrested by ICE, but a 19-year-old Honduran man remains at large.

Other illegal aliens that Mecklenburg County released this year include four men charged with assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, drug charges, gun charges, and stalking.

Five had been previously deported and a further six had been given a deportation order by a judge.

ICE said that all of its detainers are submitted with an accompanying administrative arrest warrant or warrant of removal, depending upon the circumstances of the individual case.

“The Mecklenburg County sheriff’s decision to restrict cooperation with ICE serves as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that Mecklenburg County is a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Mecklenburg County are less safe today than last year due [to] these policies,” Gallagher said.

The sheriff’s department didn’t return a request for comment by the time of publishing.

Mecklenburg County has a population of just over 1 million, according to a 2018 Census estimate. Charlotte is its major city.

Aside from Mecklenburg, five other counties in North Carolina have enacted sanctuary policies that shield illegal aliens from ICE, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which tracks sanctuary jurisdictions nationwide. The counties are Buncombe County, Durham County, Forsyth County, Orange County, and Wake County.

A bill currently moving through the state legislature aims to require all local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE. However, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated that he will veto the bill, HB370, if it gets to his desk.

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