The rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman in Queens, N.Y., became a flash point in the debate over immigration on Tuesday when federal authorities contended that the suspect should not have been in the U.S., the New York Times reports. The officials said Reeaz Khan, 21, had beaten his father during an altercation in November that had resulted in his arrest, leading federal authorities to ask New York City to hand him over for possible deportation. Instead, he was arrested on Friday and charged with the murder of Maria Fuertes. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday called Khan “an unlawfully present Guyanese national” who had been released “due to New York City’s sanctuary policies.”
The statement pitted Trump administration officials against local authorities in New York City, a so-called sanctuary city where officials have resisted deputizing law enforcement to help federal immigration authorities detain and deport undocumented immigrants. ICE officials issued a detainer in November requesting that law enforcement turn Khan over for possible deportation after he was arrested and charged with attacking his father with a broken coffee cup. The New York Police Department disputed the claim, saying that it “did not receive an ICE detainer” after Khan’s Nov. 27 arrest. Detainers are requests by ICE to hold undocumented immigrants who have been charged or convicted of crimes for 48 hours so immigration agents can pick them up. The city’s detainer law mandates that officials turn over to ICE only those who are convicted of violent and serious offenses. Fuertes, who collected cans around her neighborhood and was described as a beloved figure in her community, was found unconscious behind a parked vehicle near her home. She later died of her injuries.