U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security arrested a man who immigrated from Mexico illegally after law officers in Austin, Texas, ignored a "detainer" request from the federal agency to turn over the known gang-member.

Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero, 33, was taken into custody by ICE on Sunday. The arrest came approximately one month after ICE sent the detainer request to Travis County authorities. Travis County encompasses the Texas capital city metro area. According to ICE, Mendoza-Caballero had been deported on four previous occasions after being released from the Travis County lockup. In 2008, he was convicted of stealing a firearm. He was most recently deported in 2013.

While complying with ICE detainer requests is voluntary, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez has repeatedly rejected most requests for those persons who are not accused of a violent crime. Mendoza-Caballero was charged in June with a misdemeanor assault charge and booked into the Travis County jail. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office said that it kept ICE informed of Mendoza-Caballero's status throughout his case.

Mendoza-Caballero is a known member of the “Sureños 13” gang member. ICE says they were not notified of his release despite an immigration detainer, but the Travis County Sheriff's Office says otherwise. According to ICE, Mendoza-Caballero was arrested by Enforcement and Removal Operations officers in Austin on July 14, but did not provide details. The federal agency said it filed a detainer request with the Travis County Jail on June 16, and that he was released from the jail the same day without ICE’s knowledge.

Travis County Sheriff's Office claims that ICE was notified of the declined detainer request on July 16 at 2:41 p.m. The sheriff's office stated that a judge ordered Mendoza-Caballero to be released on a personal recognizance bond.

"He departed the Travis County Jail at 8:52 p.m., giving ICE a full six hours to provide a court order or warrant, indicating probable cause for his transfer to their custody. No such judicial documents were provided, though court ordered removal documents are currently provided on a routine basis and honored," the statement said. "It is unfortunate that once again, ICE has presented inaccurate information in what appears to be an effort to publicly shame agencies with which it disagrees. Open communication between the Travis County Jail and ICE is a daily, if not hourly occurrence. A simple phone call or email would have clarified their error privately and professionally."

ICE field officer director Daniel Bible said in a statement, “As a nation, we must protect the integrity of our immigration system by removing illegal aliens, especially those with a criminal history — this is one of ICE's top priorities.” Bible added, "ICE officers and the individual neighborhoods are placed at risk each time an ICE officer is forced to pick up an alien who could have safely been turned over to us by the releasing law enforcement agency.  In the interest of public safety, ICE continually strives to strengthen its relationships with local law enforcement agencies.”

Mendoza-Caballero is now facing felony charges in U.S. District Court for illegal re-entry to the United States after being deported. He faces as many as 20 years in federal prison. Currently, he is in the custody of ICE. Mendoza-Caballero was booked into the Travis County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury, and violating a city ordinance.




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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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