Has Philly released dangerous undocumented criminals in recent years? Conservatives continue to point to examples.
“From the release of a child rapist from the Dominican Republican (sic) to that of an Italian drug smuggler,” Philly GOP chair Joe DeFelice said in an emailed statement last Wednesday, “Philadelphians have already been put in direct danger by Mayor Kenney’s policy of blocking local law enforcement from participating with federal immigration authorities.”
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there indeed has been an alleged child rapist of Dominican origin, and an Italian man who pleaded guilty to possession of and intent to deliver illicit drugs. One by one: Winston Enrique Perez Pilarte, who was charged in Philadelphia under the name Josue Duran-Cortes with various child sexual assault charges, was released after posting $25,000 bail two months before Kenney entered office. Fabio Dalloco, after authorities say they busted him with 14 pounds of cocaine at the airport, was incarcerated for roughly 14 months and released on time served through his plea deal in August 2016. ICE said that detainer requests were sent but not honored for either of these men, and that the agency rearrested both themselves.
Of note: While Dalloco was released during Kenney’s time as mayor, Perez Pilarte was not — he was released during Mayor Michael Nutter’s tenure.
Philadelphia first became a sanctuary city in 2014. Nutter signed an executive order that barred Philadelphia Police and Prisons from honoring ICE detainer requests, unless they came with a judicial warrant for a first- or second-degree felon convicted of a violent crime. He rescinded the order during his last two weeks in office. Kenney swiftly reinstated Philly’s “sanctuary status” on the day of his inauguration. We put “sanctuary status” in quotes because what makes a city a sanctuary is heavily debated. Kenney himself uses the term Fourth Amendment city; many legal experts argue that local authorities holding an undocumented resident without civil charges is unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore a violation of constitutional rights. But cooperation with federal immigration authorities is a common test for deciding whether a jurisdiction or, more recently, campus is a “sanctuary.”
ICE declined to comment on Philadelphia’s current or pre-existing policies.
Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, reacted to DeFelice’s statement in an email. “Republicans point to these inflammatory anecdotes in order to justify defunding cities whose only crime is refusing to enact policies that the courts have found to be unconstitutional,” she wrote. “The reality is that numerous research studies show that the City’s immigration policy makes Philadelphians safer. Philadelphia’s crime rate is at a 40-year-low at the same time our immigrant growth is on the rise. This drop in crime is due in no small part to the fact that our immigration policy has strengthened trust between communities and police.”
The notion that sanctuary policies are safer is supported in research. According to a Center for American Progress report published late last week, sanctuary counties have lower crime rates. As we explained in an earlier report, looking at sanctuary policies alone wouldn’t account for other factors that could be influencing crime rates, but the CAP’s report compared nearly 2,500 counties, based on ICE’s designations. Another 2016 study, led by researchers out of the University of California Riverside and Highline College, found that sanctuary designations have “no statistically meaningful effect[s] on crime.”
The majority of local police departments, according the 2009 report “Immigration and Local Policing: Results from a National Survey of Law Enforcement Executives,” do not routinely check immigration status. “The great majority of chiefs (72 percent) regard immigration enforcement as the responsibility of federal government,” the report reads. “In general, the more serious the violation, the more likely they believe that their officers are to check immigration status.” In addition to this, many reports show that there is a concern among local police that seeking out residents for their status could damage trust in immigrant neighborhoods, and therefore make them tougher to police and lower the likelihood of immigrants sharing information when they witness crime. (For more information on this, see PolitiFact Pennsylvania’s sanctuary explainer.)
Philly GOP Chair Joe DeFelice said in a statement, “From the release of a child rapist from the Dominican Republican (sic) to that of an Italian drug smuggler, Philadelphians have already been put in direct danger by Mayor Kenney’s policy of blocking local law enforcement from participating with federal immigration authorities.”
Of the two examples given, one man who DeFelice is referring was released before Kenney’s time. Plus, whether the release of these men poses a “direct danger” raises questions. Recent data analysis shows that sanctuary counties are not more dangerous. Can we extrapolate that Dalloco returned to drug smuggling? According to court records, Dalloco wasn’t charged with any crimes in Philadelphia before ICE rearrested him in August 2016, which was two months after his release. ICE confirmed that Dalloco was deported that September.