New York City Shooting Proves the Dangers of Sanctuary Policies

I warned you — almost three years ago

By Andrew R. Arthur on February 10, 2020
  • Reporting indicates that a 26-year-old was shot while attempting to intervene in an ICE arrest of a twice-deported Mexican national, Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez.
  • The NYPD had days earlier refused to comply with a detainer for Avendano-Hernandez after he was allegedly arrested for a felony under its sanctuary policy, forcing ICE agents to arrest him at a home in Brooklyn.

A recent incident in New York City, in which a 26-year-old was reportedly shot while attempting to intervene in an ICE arrest of a twice-deported alien (for whom the NYPD had previously ignored an ICE detainer), proves a point that I have made before: Sanctuary policies endanger the public by preventing DHS officials from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of local jails and forcing them to locate and apprehend those aliens at their homes and in public places.

Although the facts of that incident are disputed (compare the descriptions here and here), reporting states that the NYPD arrested Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, a Mexican national who had been twice deported, on February 3 for "allegedly driving with a forged Connecticut license plate, a felony criminal charge". ICE issued a detainer request, which the NYPD ignored under its sanctuary policy.

On February 6, ICE agents attempted to arrest Avendano-Hernandez at a residence in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Eric (or "Erick") Diaz, the son of Avendano-Hernandez's girlfriend, attempted to intervene. The New York Post quotes an "ICE spokesperson and law enforcement sources", who stated that Diaz "physically attacked" the officers. The Washington Post, on the other hand, reported:

The strangers trying to arrest his mom's boyfriend weren't wearing uniforms or badges, and they didn't have a warrant. So 26-year-old Eric Diaz [a Mexican national present in the United States on a visa] did the only thing he could think of: Outside his front door, on the otherwise quiet Brooklyn street, he confronted the plainclothes officers.

Then, one of them shot him in the face — just below his right eye.

The Washington Post, quoting Diaz's brother, Kevin Yañez Cruz, stated that one of the officers pointed a gun at Diaz and "Just pulled the trigger." The New York Post, on the other hand, reported that:

During the scrap [between Diaz and the officers], an ICE officer's service weapon went off, sending a bullet through Diaz's hand that then ricocheted into his face, according to sources and Diaz's brother, Kevin Yanez Cruz.

An ICE source has told The Post that Diaz had reached for the officer's gun, which is why he was shot.

Plainly, if the statement from Kevin Yañez Cruz quoted in the Washington Post is true, the incident should be investigated fully, and those responsible should be punished. That would, however, be inconsistent with how ICE officers do their jobs, based on my 25 years of experience.

In any event, WaPo reported: "Avendano-Hernandez sprinted back into the house before surrendering."

In May 2017, in discussing sanctuary policies, I warned:

If ICE officers are unable to arrest aliens whom they are seeking in "controlled" environments where weapons are prohibited and those aliens are known to be (such as jails and courthouses), they will need to either arrest those aliens in public (for example at their places of business), or track them down at their homes. Attempting an arrest in these situations, however, poses a danger to the officer, the alien, and the public at large, as [then-] Attorney General Sessions and [then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly] explained in response to [California] Chief Justice [Tani] Cantil-Sakauye:

Some jurisdictions, including the State of California and many of its largest counties and cities, have enacted statutes and ordinances designed to specifically prohibit or hinder ICE from enforcing immigration law by prohibiting communication with ICE and denying requests by ICE officers and agents to enter prisons and jails to make arrests. Such policies threaten public safety, rather than enhance it. As a result, ICE officers and agents are required to locate and arrest these aliens in public places, rather than in secure jail facilities where the risk of injury to the public, the alien, and the officer is significantly increased because the alien can more readily access a weapon, resist arrest, or flee. Because courthouse visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband, the safety risks for the arresting officers and persons being arrested are substantially decreased.

Consider the danger to ICE officers in the most uncontrolled environment, the alien's home, where flight is easy and weapons could be hidden. If the officer cannot see inside the house, he or she has no idea what is waiting on the other side of the door. An alien may be armed or could try to forcibly flee, possibly assisted by others. [Emphasis added.]

The risk that I warned about almost three years ago has been confirmed. Of course, the incident has not prompted New York City to reconsider its misguided sanctuary policies. To the contrary, the New York Post reported: "Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday slammed US Immigration and Customs Enforcement as 'an illegitimate force.'"

Really? Section 236(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) would beg to differ. It states: "On a warrant issued by the Attorney General, an alien may be arrested and detained pending a decision on whether the alien is to be removed from the United States."

Immigration is the ultimate federal issue, and if there are to be debates on which, if any, aliens should be arrested and removed from the United States, those debates should take place in the halls of Congress, not in Gracie Mansion, or by the New York City Council. Otherwise, the next case could result in the killing of an ICE officer, the alien suspect who resists, an intervenor, or an innocent member of the public.