Federal agents say they finally have caught an undocumented immigrant they’ve been after for several years but who was released 10 times by police in New York under sanctuary city policies.
Jhonny Soto-Ubaldo was arrested on federal gun charges this month, giving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a new chance to place a detainer on him requesting he be turned over for deportation after his time in the federal prison system is over.
And this time it’s likely to be honored, since New York is not part of the equation.
ICE says New York police departments had Mr. Soto-Ubaldo in their custody at least 10 times dating to June 2018, when he was first arrested in Queens. But he was released despite an ICE request that he be turned over.
Two months later, he was again arrested on local charges and then released without ICE being notified. In 2019, he was arrested six times, with ICE requesting notice each time of his release and authorities defying the requests.
Two more arrests came this year on charges of possession of stolen property and assault.
His full rap sheet in New York also includes arrests for harassment, grand larceny and firearms charges.
“How can local politicians — in good conscience — say they’re protecting their constituents when they pass laws that release criminals back into our communities?” said Thomas Decker, director of deportation operations in the New York field office.
Mr. Soto-Ubaldo, 19, is a citizen of the Dominican Republic. ICE says he entered the U.S. on a six-month visitor’s visa in 2016 but didn’t leave when his time was up.
New York City’s sanctuary policy prohibits police from cooperating with ICE unless someone has been convicted of charges the city considers serious.
Mr. Ubaldo-Soto’s rap sheet does not appear to have met the city’s threshold for cooperation, allowing him to be out on the streets until the federal government intervened.
The FBI picked up Mr. Soto-Ubaldo this month after local police were again tracking him, saying they found his fingerprints on the door of a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee.
When detectives closed in, he ran, tossing a bag into a construction site as he fled, according to court documents. Police caught him, then recovered the bag and found a .380 caliber Bersa Thunder pistol with the serial number scratched off.
That earned him the federal charge of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number.
Mr. Soto-Ubaldo then escaped briefly from FBI custody, according to local news reports.
He was being taken to a federal detention center when he managed to get out of a moving car. A woman told WABC-TV that her mother-in-law spotted him in her backyard and chased him off with a meat cleaver.
He was later found hiding under bed sheets in a man’s apartment.