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Rhode Island attorney general blasts release of migrant accused of molesting child

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(The Center Square) — Rhode Island’s Attorney General is criticizing a judge’s release of a Guatemalan national living in the U.S. illegally who was charged with child molestation.

Attorney General Peter Neronha said he is demanding a review of the decisions that led to the release of an unnamed Guatemalan man accused of child molestation despite being sought by immigration authorities. Neuronha said he requested that the unnamed suspect be held without bail, but a state judge overrode his concerns and let him go on bail.

“This office argued that the court should order the defendant held without bail on the grounds that he posed a danger to the community and was a flight risk,” he said in a statement. “The court, notwithstanding that it found that the state’s evidence was evident and the presumption of guilt great, ordered that the defendant be released on $50,000 surety bail.”

Neronha also questioned why the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and other state authorities didn’t turn the suspect over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Providence police arrested the Guatemalan national in March 2023 and charged him with felony child molestation, according to Neronha’s office.

Federal immigration officials say shortly after his arrest, the Enforcement and Removal Operation Boston filed an immigration detainer with the Adult Correctional Institute in Cranston, Rhode Island, where the man was being detained. But they said the facility “ignored” the ICE detainer and released him under a court order last April.

“This Guatemalan national has disregarded U.S. immigration laws and has been charged with horrific crimes against a Rhode Island child,” ERO Boston Field Office Director Todd M. Lyons said in a statement. “We will continue to apprehend and remove egregious offenders who prey on the most vulnerable in our society.”

He said the man unlawfully entered the United States on an unknown date at an undisclosed location “without being inspected, admitted or paroled by an immigration official.”

Lyons said the man will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings before a federal immigration judge with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which weighs illegal re-entry cases.

Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz, R-Burrillville, said she has filed a public records request with the state corrections office seeking details of what led to the suspect’s release. She said she was “appalled” that the man was released “despite a lawfully lodged immigration detainer.”

“We know his release wasn’t long after he was charged with a heinous crime against a child,” she posted on social media. “At this point, we do not know how this massive failure occurred.”

Rhode Island has been a sanctuary state since 2014, when then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee made the official declaration. That policy, which has never been codified in state law, instructed the state Department of Corrections to stop honoring immigration detainers without a warrant.

Gov. Dan McKee, a Democrat, has rejected calls to lift the state’s sanctuary policy amid the recent surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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