A Mexican national arrested last week on suspicion of severely injuring the 2-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend was released from San Luis Obispo County Jail despite a request that he be held for federal immigration officials.
State law does not allow the county Sheriff’s Office to hold people based solely on immigration detainers, and the man remained out of custody Tuesday while the District Attorney’s Office awaited reports from Paso Robles police.
Francisco Javier Chavez, 27, who has a long local criminal history despite once being deported, was arrested early Thursday after police were notified the night before by San Luis Obispo County Child Welfare Services that a Paso Robles child was being treated for significant injuries at a hospital in Madera.
The girl had initially been treated at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton before being transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera because of the extent of her injuries, according to the Paso Robles Police Department. Detectives drove to Madera the night of July 29 and found the victim had multiple fractures and other injuries inconsistent with the description of events allegedly reported by Chavez and the child’s mother.
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Chavez was arrested and booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of felony cruelty to a child resulting in injury. His bail was set at $100,000.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Chavez was released on bail Friday.
Paso Robles police Sgt. Tod Rehner said the victim remained in the hospital in serious but stable condition Monday. He said she will likely remain in the hospital at least a week while recovering from a broken leg, two broken arms, a compressed spine, bruises and a significant urinary tract infection. Rehner said detectives were told by the attending doctor that she was also suffering from a 107-degree fever.
“It will be a long recovery,” Rehner said.
He said the department is not recommending charges against the mother, though prosecutors will have the final say.
Chavez was released from jail despite an immigration detainer request filed electronically by the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a nonbinding request indicating its desire to take him into custody for possible administrative proceedings.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said the agency submitted the request Thursday after being notified of Chavez’s arrest by Paso Robles police.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said that when someone is booked into County Jail and their fingerprints are taken, that information is sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, which checks an incoming inmate’s immigration status.
Cipolla said that if a detainer has been placed on the person, the Sheriff’s Office will notify ICE so that it can make arrangements to take custody. Chavez, however, posted bail the next day.
“When an immigration detainer is received from ICE, the requests will be honored, but the jail will not detain someone beyond the date they would otherwise be entitled to be released,” Cipolla wrote in an email.
In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the Trust Act, which “limits cruel and costly immigration ‘hold’ requests in local jails,” according to catrustact.org. The bill was interpreted as a major rebuke of an Obama administration enforcement policy that has resulted in record deportations from the state.
The disconnect between the state and federal governments extends beyond California. In April 2014, a district court judge in Oregon ruled that officials in Clackamas County violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her 19 hours after her case was settled to allow federal immigration officials to launch an investigation into her residency status.
Officials there mistook an ICE detainer request as mandatory, according to The Oregonian.
“I am not happy with the state of our current laws regarding this issue,” San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson wrote in an email. “I am not aware of any county in California that is honoring detainers … simply because we can’t.”
That does not make San Luis Obispo a so-called “sanctuary” county, a nonlegal term for governments that do not allow police officers to ask people about their immigration status, Parkinson wrote. The term has ignited national debate following the killing of a 32-year-old Cal Poly graduate in San Francisco last month allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant with multiple felonies who had been previously deported five times.
Chavez similarly has a criminal history in San Luis Obispo dating back to 2006, when he was convicted of felony assault and served about 180 days in County Jail. Court records show he had been arrested at least four other times on suspicion of various offenses, including a 2011 felony conviction for possessing a controlled substance for sale.
According to ICE, Chavez was previously deported in February 2014 following a San Luis Obispo County conviction for drunken driving.
Haley said the agency is working on a new initiative that would help ICE officials take custody of undocumented immigrants arrested or convicted of some crimes before they are released back into the community, while complying with state law.
The agency’s new Priority Enforcement Program calls for ICE officials to request notification from local law enforcement agencies prior to the release of an undocumented immigrant accused or convicted of a crime and who meets the agency’s “heightened” priorities, she wrote in an email.
In theory, ICE agents will have time to physically pick up a person once they are released from custody.
“PEP is a balanced, common-sense approach that places the focus where it should be: on criminals and individuals who threaten the public safety,” Haley wrote.
On Tuesday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said the District Attorney’s Office was expecting the submission of Chavez’s recommended charges from the Paso Robles Police Department for its review.
A court arraignment has not yet been scheduled.