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ICE blasts Sheriff in 'sanctuary city' for releasing illegal immigrant charged with rape

Mecklenburg County Sheriffs Office-Sheriff Garry McFadden
Mecklenburg County Sheriffs Office-Sheriff Garry McFadden
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CHARLOTTE, N.C.--U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is publicly calling out a North Carolina sheriff's office for releasing an immigration violator arrested for first-degree rape and child sex charges.

In a statement release on Thursday, ICE says the decision by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office not to honor an ICE detainer for Honduran national Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo (33), led to Pacheo-Leonardo being loose on the streets for nearly two months.

"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," the statement reads.

Pancheco was originally arrested on June 14 on charges of first degree rape and two counts indecent liberties with a child. ICE issued a detainer the following day but it was not honored by the sheriff's department.

The issue stems back to Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden's decision upon being elected in 2018 to end the 287(g) program. The program allows ICE, state, and local law enforcement agencies to share information and work together to identify and remove illegal immigrants from the country.

The decision to not hold Pancheco has ICE calling McFadden out publicly for refusing to honor the detainer or even notify the agency of his release.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Hallaher said the Sheriff's decisions are making residents "less safe."

“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,” Gallagher stated. “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 these policies.”

ICE captured Pancheco on August 9 during a targeted enforcement operation and he remains in the agency's custody.

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According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Mecklenburg County is considered a "sanctuary city."

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