Kent, Wash. — An illegal alien charged with murder exploited “sanctuary” laws to remain in country despite numerous arrests for criminal conduct, according to an investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).
Jorge Omar Alcantara-Gonzalez, 34, is a Mexican national who was arrested in June after a multi-county 23-day manhunt in connection with the disappearance of Ian Eckles, who lived in the town of Kent, Wash. Eckles’ body has not been found. Alcantara-Gonzalez was arraigned on June 19 and entered not guilty pleas to second-degree murder and 22 other crimes. He is being held on $3 million bail.
While the case of Eckles’ disappearance is tragic, the circumstances of how Alcantara-Gonzalez managed to remain in the United States for so long are even more disturbing, the IRLI said.
King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office records obtained by IRLI confirm that he had been arrested at least four times in the past several years in the state. Among his charges were driving while intoxicated, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply. In every instance, Alcantara-Gonzalez was eventually released back into the community. A review of court records also reveal that he relied on public defenders each time he faced the justice system.
After each previous arrest, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had issued detainer requests to King County, asking local officials to hold Alcantara-Gonzalez long enough for an ICE agent to arrive at the detention center and assume custody of him. ICE altogether lodged four different detainers on Alcantara-Gonzalez following his arrests. The detainers were ignored each time and he was allowed to go free, released back into the community to commit more crimes.
Despite his presence in the U.S. illegally and his repeated violations of the law, King County officials refused to cooperate with ICE’s request to allow a transfer of custody. Even though they were repeatedly blocked in their previous efforts to deport him, ICE announced on May 28 it would help local law enforcement locate Alcantara-Gonzalez after he became a suspect in Eckles’ disappearance.
“This case is a perfect storm of reckless sanctuary policies and a failure to enforce our immigration laws,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The alleged perpetrator entered the U.S. illegally, re-entered after multiple deportations, committed numerous crimes and was shielded from further deportation. The family of Mr. Eckles are right to be furious about this. If not for sanctuary policies in Washington state, Mr. Eckles would likely be alive today. State and local leaders there have a lot to answer for.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed an executive order in February 2017 that forbids state agencies from enforcing federal immigration law.
Doubling down on this sanctuary measure, Inslee in May 2019 signed into law the “Keep Washington Working Act,” which prohibits jails in the state from holding detainees for federal immigration officials based solely on an ICE detainer or immigration hold. The law is considered one of the most radical sanctuary policies in the country.
“I think it’s absolutely disgusting that a form of government could release somebody like that back into the population after committing crimes in a country that they don’t belong in legally,” Nathan Eckles, Ian’s brother, said to IRLI. “This all could have been avoided so very easily if these cities that have these policies would have just let immigration do their job,” he continued.”
While state law supersedes anything passed at the local level, King County also has in place its own anti-immigration enforcement measures. An ordinance passed in November 2009 prohibits the county sheriff’s office from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status. King County includes the city of Seattle.