CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - A man involved in a nine-hour SWAT standoff with police last month was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday, immigration officials say.
Luis Pineda-Ancheta, a 37-year-old native of Honduras, had been arrested twice by police in May on charges related to domestic violence. Following his second release from jail on Saturday night, he was arrested by ICE in south Charlotte around noon on Sunday.
His case has served as a flashpoint in an ongoing dispute between community activists, local law enforcement and ICE on whether the Mecklenberg County sheriff should collaborate with federal officials on immigration enforcement.
Following Sheriff Garry McFadden’s election in November, he cut his office’s ties with ICE entirely. Besides putting an end to the 287(g) program, he also stopped honoring immigration detainers — requests by the agency to hold an individual in jail until ICE can pick them up.
But ICE officials have pointed to Pineda-Ancheta’s case as an example of the “public safety risks” that come from that decision. They say that Mecklenburg County should at least notify ICE when it releases inmates with detainers, like Pineda-Ancheta, as the county did under previous sheriffs.
“You’re in the public safety business,” said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. “If you have an inmate who is a violent, criminal offender and a public safety threat, and there is another law enforcement agency out there who wants to take that person into custody, why in the world would you want that person out on the streets?”
Immigration activists, however, have accused ICE of conflating different parts of the criminal justice system and politicizing a case to serve the agency’s own agenda. They say that if Pineda-Ancheta was here legally, he would have been released without any fanfare.
He has been deported from the U.S. once before in 2006, McFadden said.
“ICE is trying to use fear-mongering techniques,” said Stefania Arteaga, an organizer with the activist group Comunidad Colectiva, “and trying to steer away from the reality that detainers don’t determine someone’s criminality, and why they’re in jail.”
“If it wasn’t a Latino man or an immigrant man, we wouldn’t be talking about detainers,” she said.
The decision on whether — and how — to release an inmate from jail falls to a magistrate or judge, not the sheriff or his deputies.
Because Pineda-Ancheta had been charged with mostly misdemeanors and didn’t have any kind of in-state criminal history, the release conditions set after his first arrest on May 15 were fairly typical: a $5,000 bond and no pretrial supervision. There was also a domestic violence protective order in the case, which he later broke.
After his second arrest a week later, Pineda-Ancheta spent about eight days in jail before he was released with a $65,000 bond and a GPS monitor, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the sheriff’s office.
Electronic monitoring in the Charlotte area is managed by CMPD, and ICE does not have access to that data, according to police spokeswoman Melissa Treadaway.
In a page-long statement released Monday afternoon, McFadden wrote that the sheriff’s office is required to release inmates who have paid bond and fulfilled the court’s conditions for their release.
McFadden called ICE’s decision to issue detainers in this case inexplicable, given that he has a policy of not honoring them.
“Based upon Pineda-Ancheta’s previous deportation, ICE could have but did not seek a criminal arrest warrant for illegal re-entry,” McFadden wrote. He added that the sheriff’s office would have honored that arrest warrant like any other arrest warrant.
Cox said ICE did request a criminal arrest warrant, but did not specify when.
Following his Sunday arrest by ICE, Pineda-Ancheta faces federal prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States, according to a Monday statement from Cox.