An illegal alien accused of sexually abusing a 3-year-old child would have been in federal custody had the Chicago Police Department honored an immigration detainer on him last year and not released him back into the community.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, lodged an immigration detainer with Chicago police for Christopher Puente, 34, a Mexican national living in the U.S. illegally, in June 2019 upon his arrest for theft. That detainer request was ignored, ICE said, and Puente since has been charged with sexually abusing a 3-year-old, according to a press release by the agency.

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An ICE spokesperson criticized Chicago leaders, noting that their lack of cooperation could have prevented Puente from committing the alleged crime.

“How many more victims must there be before lawmakers realize that sanctuary policies do not protect the innocent?” Robert Guadian, field office director of Chicago Enforcement and Removal Operations, asked in a statement. “Puente should have been in ICE custody last year and removed to his home country. Instead, irresponsible lawmaking allowed him to walk free and prey on our most vulnerable.”

Puente has a lengthy criminal rap sheet dating back years before his 2019 arrest in Chicago.

The Mexican national was convicted of forced-entry burglary in 2011, forgery in 2012, and another forced-entry burglary in 2017—all felony crimes. Puente is also known to go by the aliases Christopher Adam Puente, Chris Jose Puente, and Juan Manue Lopez, according to ICE.

Federal immigration authorities deported Puente back to Mexico on Dec. 5, 2014, but just five days later, he was apprehended by border agents at Brownsville, Texas. He said he was American and provided a birth certificate, but was subsequently charged with falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen.

Puente was served a notice to appear before an immigration judge, but apparently disappeared into the interior of the United States. He never appeared for his immigration hearing, and a judge on March 30, 2017, ordered him to be removed from the U.S. in absentia.

Despite this lengthy criminal record, the Chicago Police Department chose not to honor the ICE detainer placed on Puente after he landed in their custody in June 2019 on theft charges. He ultimately was released back into the community, and on Feb. 19 he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 3-year-old child at a fast food restaurant.

ICE lodged an immigration detainer with the Cook County Jail on Feb. 20 following Puente’s arrest, but it’s not clear if local authorities will honor the request.

Chicago—a liberal bastion that has become increasingly hostile toward federal immigration authorities—has formal policies in place that forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE. In fiscal year 2019, for example, Cook County ignored more than 1,000 ICE detainers.

Speaking before the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference October 2019, President Donald Trump called Chicago the “worst sanctuary city in America.”

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