ICE, sheriff officials argue whether new law allowed Cuban man freed from ArapCo jail to commit attempted murder


AURORA | U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say an alleged attempted murder in Aurora could have been prevented if a new state law hadn’t allowed local jail officials to free a Cuban suspect in October.

Officials from the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office refute that claim.

Pictured: Osmani Garces-Ortiz. Photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

ICE officials allege that when Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies discharged an undocumented Cuban immigrant from the local jail after he posted a $2,000 bond last month, he was set free to commit more crime.

As ICE has repeatedly made clear, when local jurisdictions refuse to support immigration enforcement, they betray their duty to protect public safety,” ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock said in a statement. 

Osmani Garces-Ortiz, 37, was arrested in late October on drug and trespassing charges, according to court records. He was released from the Arapahoe County Jail in Centennial at 6:27 p.m. on Oct. 28 after posting bond, according to ICE and county records.

But Aurora police arrested Garces-Ortiz again on Nov. 21 on attempted murder, assault and bond violation charges, according to an ICE press release. He is now being held on a $202,000 bond at the Arapahoe County jail, according to county records. 

Details of the latter crimes were not available as a request for the court document detailing Garces-Ortiz’s arrest was not immediately answered. Aurora police declined to provide details on the case, citing an ongoing investigation.

Federal authorities said Garces-Ortiz’s alleged crimes in November could have been stymied if Arapahoe County jailers had detained the Cuban national like ICE officials had requested when he was in custody on the drug and trespassing charges late last month. 

In accordance with a recently passed state law that prohibits local authorities from detaining people solely on the basis of a request from ICE, Arapahoe County officials released Garces-Ortiz despite ICE requesting a detainer — or temporary hold — on him. ICE officials said had deputies honored the request, it could have allowed ICE officials time to apprehend Garces-Ortiz, who entered the U.S. illegally via boat in Key West, Florida in 2008, and potentially begin deportation proceedings. 

Vince Line, bureau chief with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said the jail has not honored administrative detainers from ICE for several years. The new state law did not change how the jail processes inmates for release.

“The new legislation essentially prohibits us from keeping someone in custody on an administrative detainer request, however we’ve been following that guidance for years,” Line said. “That didn’t change anything.”

Previously, Colorado officials were allowed to hold aliens on whom ICE had requested detainers for up to two days, giving federal officials time to arrive at jails and prisons and collect them, according to Smock. While that system remains in place in other states, the new state law has nixed that protocol in Colorado. Still, ICE is continuing to issue detainer requests to local jailers, according to Smock. 

“We still do our jobs on the federal side of things,” she said. “But it hurts us that somebody like this was allowed to walk free without notifying us, and now he’s gone on to commit even more crimes.” 

Even though Arapahoe County officials have been following the spirit of the new law passed by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jared Polis this spring, ICE brass said the measure prohibiting law enforcement from honoring ICE detainers is hindering the federal agency’s ability to work with all Colorado law enforcement agencies and endangering the public.

“It was absolutely predictable that innocent residents would suffer at the hands of criminal aliens when Colorado’s heinous sanctuary bill was signed into law,” John Fabbricatore, deputy field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Denver, said in a statement. “Because of this law, our ICE office was not notified when a criminal alien was released on bail, and this alien is now charged with attempted murder. How many more terrible crimes will be committed, because lawmakers put political agendas before public safety?”

Line said jailers notified ICE via email at 3:57 p.m. that Garces-Ortiz was scheduled to be released in the coming hours. He said deputies always send such notifications to ICE when they receive detainer requests, but never actively hold an inmate after their scheduled release.

The new state law neither requires nor prohibits jailers from notifying ICE of an inmate’s pending release.

Garces-Ortiz was released exactly two hours and 30 minutes after deputies notified ICE. Line said ICE officials could have come to the jail to detain Garces-Ortiz in that window of time.

“Their office in Centennial is only a mile or two from us at the jail,” Line said. “It’s not like they had to drive up from Pueblo or something like that.”

But Smock said the communication ICE received from the sheriff’s office was too broad.

“They notified us of a potential release … it was not: ‘He will be released at this time and it’s going to be a controlled release’ because that’s what is not allowed,” Smock said. “House Bill 19-1124 was signed in May and that’s the thing that’s making it very difficult for (the sheriff’s office) to be able to work with us.”

Line disagreed.

“We’ve had a very collaborative and productive relationship with ICE over the years, so certainly there are no issues there,” he said.

Garces-Ortiz is due in Arapahoe County District Court for a status conference at 9 a.m. on Nov. 29, according to a spokesperson for the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.