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Homeless man wanted by ICE arrested for murder; tried to detain him 9 times

This photo comes from the second national wave of Operation Cross Check, an effort by ICE to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Released)

A homeless man arrested on Monday for stabbing a San Jose woman to death last month was an undocumented immigrant who had been ordered detained by federal authorities nine times, officials said Tuesday. But the man, who had multiple convictions for misdemeanor and felony offenses, was released from the Santa Clara County jail twice in the months before the killing.

On Tuesday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo issued a sharply-worded criticism of the county’s policy of not honoring federal immigration detention orders at the jail. Liccardo said the policy “undermines public safety, and violates common sense.”

San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia joined with Liccardo and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith in criticizing the policy Tuesday. At a press conference, Garcia said he was well aware of the ways in which the case probably would be politicized amid a heated national debate over immigration and local “sanctuary” policies meant to protect undocumented residents from federal authorities.

But, Garcia said, there was a distinction between protecting and embracing “otherwise law-abiding undocumented residents” and policies that he said “shield admitted gangsters or violent criminals.”

“When we have violent or serious offenders that are preying on our community, we must have the ability to protect our residents,” Garcia said.

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Police arrested 24-year-old Carlos Eduardo Arevalo-Carranza on Monday in the death of 59-year-old Bambi Larson, who was found dead in her home on Knollfield Way on the afternoon of Feb. 28.

Arevalo-Carranza, a native of El Salvador, had been living in the country illegally, and was the subject of at least nine “detainers” from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement since 2016, according to Erik Bonnar, the agency’s acting field director the agency’s San Francisco field office.

Under those detainers, local law enforcement agencies hold immigrants for up to two days until ICE agents can take custody of them. Santa Clara County has not honored them since 2011.

Garcia said Arevalo-Carranza had been arrested several times in Santa Clara County in recent years for a string of charges, most recently when he was arrested in January on charges of possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia. He had also been arrested in October. But Garcia said Arevalo-Carranza was never turned over to ICE because of the county’s policy of ignoring federal detention orders.

Bonnar leaped to criticize the county in a statement Tuesday, writing that it “allowed Arevalo-Carranza back on the streets to reoffend.”

“These sanctuary policies have unintended, but very real, and often tragic consequences to public safety,” Bonnar said.

Liccardo said he would like the county to honor ICE detention orders for “prior first-degree home burglaries and other ‘strike’ offenses.” Garcia did not describe specific changes he would like to see to the policies, but said he believes local law enforcement should be involved in the conversations.

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Smith, who as sheriff runs the Santa Clara County Jail, said Arevalo-Carranza should have been held for federal officials.

“It has been my long-standing position that all undocumented immigrants who are a serious or violent felons, should be held for ICE evaluations,” Smith said.

Authorities have not been able to determine any connection between Arevalo-Carranza and Larson, Garcia said, though they believe he “stalked” the quiet South San Jose neighborhood where the crime occurred.

Larson’s son had gone to check on his mother on the afternoon of Feb. 28 after he said coworkers told him she had not shown up to work that day. He found her covered in blood in her bedroom, and called police around 1:45 p.m.

Prosecutors expect to charge Arevalo-Carranza with murder, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said, with an arraignment hearing scheduled for Thursday.

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© 2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.