South Jersey officials firing back after accused child rapist released before deportation proceedings

ByCorey Davis WPVI logo
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
NJ county firing back after accused child rapist released before deportation proceedings
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NJ county firing back after accused child rapist released before deportation proceedings. Corey Davis has more on Action News at 5 p.m. on October 1, 2019.

BRIDGETON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- An accused child rapist is on the run after being released from the Cumberland County Jail before ICE was able to take him into custody. But local authorities said they were following a judge's order.

Some fear a feud between the state and the federal government could be putting public safety at risk.

Leaders of Cumberland County are standing firm, saying the staff at the jail did everything right by following a judge's order to release accused rapist, Luciano Trejo-Dominguez last month.

ICE officials blasted agencies on the local level last week over the release of inmates.

"This isn't a political matter, it's a public safety matter," said Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.

Albence expressed frustration last week while explaining hurdles encountered while tracking down dozens of released inmates across the country. Officers were able to catch some, but others like Trejo-Dominguez remain on the run.

ICE officials claim they submitted what they call "detainers" to make sure offenders believed to be undocumented are held in jail until immigration officers can pick them up.

"We'd much rather take custody of a criminal aliens in the safety of a jail environment instead of sending our officers out to perform the dangerous and difficult task of finding them all over again because a local law enforcement agency has refused to allow us to exercise our lawful federal authority to make an immigration arrest," Albence said.

But Cumberland County leaders are firing back, saying the paperwork needed from ICE to keep Trejo-Dominguez in jail didn't arrive until after the judge allowed him to be released.

"It created a situation where we could not because of a court order and we did not have the documentation to hold that individual or even have the ability to contact ICE agency in regards to the fact this inmate was going to be released," said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella. "We are doing the best we can, but there is definitely confusion at the local level on what direction to go."

Derella told Action News over the phone that counties across the state are caught in the middle of a major fight between ICE and New Jersey leaders.

"Pointing blame is exactly the same thing that seems to be going on in Washington and we don't want that at the local level because we cannot survive pointing fingers at each other," Derella said.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal recently said he doesn't want local officers doing the deportation work of federal agents and has therefore enacted changes.

Grewal also said he's against those kinds of agreements.

"An agreement that undermines public safety by blurring that bright clear line that we drew in this state between our law enforcement officers and ICE," Grewal said.

Grewal said local jails will still notify ICE before an inmate accused of a serious crime is released.

"Under our Immigrant Trust Directive, if you break the law, you go to jail regardless of your immigration status. No one, and I repeat, no one gets a free pass in this state to commit crime," Grewal said.

Derella and other Cumberland County leaders are asking Grewal to address residents and reassure them that the release of the accused rapist isn't the result of the state's battle with Trump administration policies.