Sheriff Kenny Lemons never expected to deal with MS-13 criminal aliens after taking office 10 years ago in tiny Clay County, Texas, a rural area near the Oklahoma border. But thanks to the surge in Central Americans in recent years and what he believes to be lax cooperation with ICE from some of the larger metro areas in Texas, highway 287 has become a conduit for drugs and gang members passing through his city. The latest case of Douglas Guevera-Medrano, a 20-year-old illegal alien from El Salvador, underscores the problem.
Douglas Guevera-Medrano was caught in Clay County last Monday after a half-day manhunt involving multiple law enforcement agencies attempting to apprehend him. He had numerous outstanding warrants from Dallas County and is now booked in Sheriff Lemons’ Clay County jail on evading, failure to identify, and outstanding charges in other parts of Texas. According to KFDX, Guevera-Medrano has six outstanding charges from Dallas County for criminal mischief and theft, four charges of criminal mischief, theft, and failure to identify from Farmer’s Branch, and charges from Richardson, Texas, for criminal mischief and theft. According to the sheriff, ICE immediately placed a detainer on him.
The question Sheriff Lemons asked in an interview with CR is: “Why did it take this manhunt in my county in order for this threat to be taken off the streets?”
The outstanding warrants stemmed from an arrest in Dallas County last March, Lemons told me. “Once he made bond last year, he was released without an ICE detainer being placed on him. The reason I was upset about it is because the man shouldn’t even have been in Clay County, if that ICE hold would have been placed on him once those charges were done. He should have been detained and held until the charges were completed and deported to El Salvador. This is ridiculous. We could not show any detainer ever being placed on him, and either way, he should never have been out on the streets. He has been in the country illegally since 2014 and is a member of the MS-13 street gang. We know that the neighborhood he grew up in El Salvador was predominantly controlled by MS-13.”
According to the sheriff, the manhunt was triggered when Dallas County “subsequently worked a case investigation which led to a warrant being issued for him for the same time for other offenses, and those were fresh warrants that had not been served at the time of his arrest.” The sheriff served all those warrants, and Guevera-Medrano is now being held on $250,000 bond. He has not posted bond yet, but the sheriff was very clear that he intends to honor the ICE detainer if he does post bond and transfer him to federal custody.
The sheriff said that ICE originally would not have known about this guy unless Dallas County had called and asked for a detainer. It’s important to note that while many counties, including Dallas, are not official sanctuaries to the degree that they will disregard ICE detainers (which is illegal in Texas after passage of SB4), they often fail to proactively seek out detainers and notify ICE.
The danger in cases of criminal aliens is that dangerous threats that could easily be eliminated are placed back on the streets once they post bond. There’s a limit to what can be done to hold Americans who post bond, but criminal aliens who post bond for criminal arrests should always be turned over to ICE and held for deportation. This ensures that there is no gap of coverage.
While it is true that ICE agents do see arrests entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), they often miss first-time alien offenders, especially if they evaded Border Patrol at the border and slipped into the country without an encounter. With their fingerprints not on record, ICE has no way of knowing who they are.
Furthermore, criminal aliens are often coached to give false identities. If their fingerprints are already on record, ICE will be pinged and will try to reconcile the differences between the prints and the name, but if their fingerprints were never on record, the only way for ICE to know about the arrest if the locality is not proactive is if an ICE official was posted at the jail at that time.
As one ICE official told me, “Biometric information uploaded through NCIC is only as good as the data that accompanies it, and given the reality that persons may provide incorrect name and/or citizenship information to local jurisdictions upon arrest, it’s not uncommon for persons to elude detection in jurisdictions that restrict ICE’s access to interview persons in local criminal custody.” While sanctuary jurisdictions are particularly bad, the ICE official noted, without having the particular information on this case, that even other jurisdictions that apprehend aliens “who may only briefly be in local custody and are released prior to an ICE officer being able to interview them” can slip through the cracks.
Sherriff Lemon’s department certainly was proactive in notifying ICE. “Once ICE was notified by my agency, they had no problem putting a detainer on him, so this just leads you to believe that they possibly never knew this guy was in custody in Dallas last year,” he said. “We do things differently here. This guy can post all the bond he wants, but he’s not getting out … on the streets again until ICE picks him up or a court order to release him.”
This is the difference between a proactive local law enforcement agency and a sleeper sanctuary jurisdiction. Many major cities in this country will not actively notify ICE about what they consider to be “low-level crimes.” This is how so many illegal alien crimes go undocumented.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), between June 1, 2011, and March 31, 2019, 189,000 illegal aliens were charged with more than 303,000 criminal offenses. That might sound like a lot, but in reality the true number of illegal aliens arrested for crimes in Texas is likely exponentially higher, because DPS only counts those whose fingerprints have a positive ID from DHS. Easily fewer than half of the criminal aliens encountered by Texas law enforcement have previously been in DHS custody, especially those caught for a first crime. Anyone who successfully evades capture at the border is not in the federal system, and the criminal elements tend to evade detection more often because they obviously don’t surrender at the border like the family units do.
According to Texas DPS, “These figures only count individuals who previously had an encounter with DHS that resulted in their fingerprints being entered into the DHS IDENT database. Foreign nationals who enter the country illegally and avoid detection by DHS, but are later arrested by local or state law enforcement for a state offense will not have a DHS response in regard to their lawful status and do not appear in these counts.”
All those who evaded capture and went on to commit their first crimes are not documented in the report, and often they are released to commit even more crimes before ICE even knows about it.
Even among those who are known, they have collectively racked up “arrests for 549 homicide charges; 33,449 assault charges; 5,836 burglary charges; 38,185 drug charges; 420 kidnapping charges; 16,229 theft charges; 24,126 obstructing police charges; 1,698 robbery charges; 3,570 sexual assault charges; 4,777 sexual offense charges; and 3,049 weapon charges.”
Sheriff Lemons is now concerned with the growth of transnational cartel and gang members in Texas and that rural areas will have to start dealing with what Dallas and Houston have long been confronted with on a daily basis.
“Most of our deputies are not equipped to deal with MS-13 gang members, so it’s very concerning that the border problems have now gotten to northern Texas.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.