Cut-and-Run Meets Catch-and-Release

Alien who removed ankle bracelet arrested by ICE following release due to Philadelphia sanctuary policy

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 9, 2020
  • According to ICE, Guatemalan national Eduardo Coc-Sep was arrested by the Border Patrol after entering the United States illegally and released on an electronic monitoring device, which he cut off, and then absconded.
  • He was arrested by the Philadelphia Police in October 2019 for (among other things) robbery and theft.
  • ICE placed a detainer on Coc-Sep, which Philadelphia failed to honor when it released him in February.
  • ICE subsequently apprehended Coc-Sep. His case underscores the problems with both sanctuary cities in the interior and alternatives to detention for aliens apprehended at the border.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported on March 5 that it had apprehended Eduardo Coc-Sep, a Guatemalan national who had faced criminal charges in Philadelphia. It is one apprehension that shows the weaknesses in two bad policies: alternatives to detention (ATD) and sanctuary cities. It is cut and run meets catch and release into the community.

Coc-Sep was arrested by the Border Patrol in 2018 after entering the United States illegally near El Paso. He was released on an "electronic monitoring device" (likely an ankle monitor), which he thereafter cut off, and then absconded. On October 10, 2019, he was arrested, according to ICE, by the Philadelphia Police Department "for the criminal offenses of robbery, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and other charges."

Now, I am not sure if this is the same Eduardo Coc-Sep, late of Guatemala, who is featured on ICE's list of criminals from non-cooperative jurisdictions who has subsequently been captured by the agency, but if it is, then those other charges included attempted rape and indecent assault. I have not found any disposition of any of these charges, but the police believed he committed them enough to arrest him and the charges are serious, individually and in toto.

ICE had lodged a detainer the day Coc-Sep was arrested, but instead of honoring that detainer, the Philadelphia prison system released him on February 3. Not that this was a surprise — Philadelphia is a big old sanctuary city, which I explained in a December 2019 post:

As my colleague Jessica Vaughan has noted:

Outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who had long maintained obstructive sanctuary policies, undid them before leaving office in December 2015. One of the very first acts of new Mayor Jim Kenney [D], within hours of his swearing-in, and after accepting some homemade bread baked by illegal aliens, was to institute a new sanctuary policy.

It only got worse from there. The Justice Department attempted to prevent Philadelphia from receiving certain grants because of its sanctuary policies, only to be blocked in this effort by a federal judge. As Philadelphia magazine reported: "Kenney Celebrates After Judge Sides With Philly in Sanctuary City Case: The mayor did a little dance on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that the Department of Justice's efforts to block federal funding from the city violate statutory and constitutional law."

While there are plenty of supporters of electronic monitoring devices and other ATDs, I am not one of them, and neither is my colleague Dan Cadman — and not just because ankle monitors can be easily cut off. As Cadman has stated:

I know that aliens in the ATD program often work without authorization because I and others at the Center have spoken to the personnel who run the ATD programs: They acknowledge that they are aware from GPS tracking that these aliens often work without benefit of employment authorization; in fact, they know exactly where. But for the sake of keeping the aliens in the program, they turn a blind eye. How ironic, then, that the U.S. government underwrites a program permitting aliens in removal proceedings to work without authority — which is itself a basis for removal — and in the process continues to act as an incentive for more aliens to pay smugglers to aid them in illegally entering the United States.

So, even when ATDs work, they don't work. But they really don't work when the alien with the ankle monitor cuts it off and runs, as Coc-Sep purportedly did.

How many aliens do that? Vaughan has noted that "about three out of 10 illegal migrants who are released on ATD promptly cut off their ankle monitors and disappear into the country." So, Coc-Sep is not alone — he's just not in good company. And those absconders are not all just "coming to the United States for a better life", unless that better life includes robbery and theft (and possibly other offenses).

Did I mention that "Only about half of ATD cases actually complete their hearings, and many abscond at that point"? On the other hand, do you know how many detained aliens complete their cases? One hundred percent.

Back to Philadelphia and its sanctuary policy. The December post referenced above involved one Hector Moran-Espinoza, a Guatemalan national illegally present in the United States. He was apprehended by ICE on November 27, 2019, after he had been arrested twice by the Philadelphia Police Department for sexual offenses, and released twice, despite two separate ICE detainers.

Plainly, the City of Brotherly Love wants to get criminals off of its streets (unlike, say, San Francisco, where the record is not so clear, even when the victims are themselves cops); that is why they arrest people like Moran-Espinoza and Coc-Sep on state charges to begin with.

So why don't they want to get them out of the country, as well? U.S. citizens and non-deportable alien criminals are one thing, but there is a system in place to remove criminal aliens who are deportable, which is specifically and only there to keep them from preying on the community again. Releasing criminal aliens under sanctuary policies is like shaving your throat with the blade going side to side, rather than up and down — it doesn't solve the problem, and does more harm than good.

How do I know that most of those released under sanctuary policies will commit additional crimes? Here is an amazing statistic from the Fiscal Year 2019 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations [ERO] Report:

Of the 123,128 ERO administrative arrests in FY 2019 with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, the criminal history for this group represented 489,063 total criminal convictions and pending charges as of the date of arrest, which equates to an average of four criminal arrests/convictions per alien, highlighting the recidivist nature of the aliens that ICE arrests. [Emphasis added.]

Hardly a statistic to kick up your heels about, Mayor Kenney. But again, the Coc-Sep case is not only on Philadelphia, it is on those in Congress and so-called "stakeholders" who push ATD to begin with. That policy should go where those cut-off ankle monitors likely end up — in the trash.