A 44-year-old man who was deported three times to the Dominican Republic was arrested last week in New York City by federal immigration officials after their initial request for local authorities to detain the man was not honored, the agency said in a press release Monday.
But that release was swiftly refuted by a City Hall source, who said the city never received a detainer request.
The arrest of Hector Suarez, who is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Services, comes amid President Donald Trump’s efforts to deport undocumented residents, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to limit those deportations within New York City to people who have committed serious crimes within the last five years.
Suarez’s criminal history is mainly related to low-level drug convictions and illegal re-entry into the country, and he appears to fit the profile of the kind of resident New York City officials said they are trying to shield from deportation by limiting their cooperation with immigration officials.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested local officials detain Suarez on Dec. 29, while he was in custody in Manahttan. City officials did not honor the request, ICE said Monday, and released Suarez on bail the following day. He was arrested by ICE officials in New York on Feb. 21, the agency said.
In a statement, ICE referred to Suarez as a “convicted criminal alien,” and a spokesman in the agency’s New York office, Thomas Decker, said, “This is the case of another criminal alien, a felon, who was released back into the streets. Politics and rhetoric are not what keep the people of this great city safe.”
A City Hall source strongly rejected the characterization in ICE’s statement, and said the federal agency never sent city officials a detainer request. Previously, when Suarez was in the custody of city officials related to a felony, he was sent upstate, not released on bail, the source said.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to release information ahead of a formal statement, said local law enforcement officials never released Suarez into the streets with an open and valid detainer request.
ICE did not specify what charges Suarez was facing when he was detained in December. It also was not clear if ICE’s detainer request was issued under the authorization of a federal judge, one of the two pre-requests NYC officials said are needed for them to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. The other criteria is that the suspect must have been convicted of one of 170 serious crimes within the last five years, as designated by a 2014 city law.
Suarez was convicted of attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, in 3rd degree in 1997; in April 2002, he was convicted of criminal possession of controlled substance in the 5th degree (which is an even lower charge than the one in 1997); and in November 2006, Suarez was convicted of attempted assault in the 2nd degree.
According to ICE, on three previous occasions, Suarez was deported to the Dominican Republic, in November 2002; April 2004; and September 2009.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.