The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has responded to a request for comment from the TIMES NEWS concerning the release of a Mexican illegal immigrant in Beaver Meadows on Sunday.
Police Chief Michael Morresi had stopped the man, Oswaldo Tlalmis-Perez, 30, at 3:30 p.m. for driving 56 mph over the posted 35 mph speed limit on Route 93. Asked for identification, Perez handed Morresi a Mexican voter registration card and two government welfare benefit Access cards, both in different names. He also had $3,000 in cash.
Morresi called ICE to begin the process of detaining Perez, who admitted being in the United Stated illegally for the past six years. After four hours on the phone, ICE agents told Morresi to release Perez. Morresi complied after charging him with driving without a license and speeding.
The incident prompted U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, who, as the former mayor of Hazleton, based his campaign for congress on his fight against illegal immigration, to write to ICE to find out why it would order the release of an illegal immigrant.
"Please tell me what policy, if any, ICE uses to determine how to detain illegal aliens who have violated the law and are in our country illegally. If the illegal immigrant does not possess a valid U.S. address, how does ICE account for their whereabouts if they refuse to respond to the charges that are filed? Furthermore, if an illegal immigrant is in the country illegally and taking advantage of public benefits, is ICE required to notify the proper governmental agencies?" Barletta wrote.
A call from the TIMES NEWS to ICE offices in Washington, DC and Philadelphia was not returned by press time Friday morning. However, an ICE official did respond later in the day with the following statement:
"A senior officer from Philadelphia's Enforcement and Removal branch discussed the situation today with the Beaver Meadows police chief. As the subject was not arrested and charged with a crime by the local department, did not have a criminal record and is not a fugitive with ICE, the subject is not a priority case and a detainer would not be placed.
"ICE has the pertinent information on the individual to follow up at a later time. ICE is focused on sensible, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts first on those serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities. ICE looks forward in continuing their good working relationship with the Beaver Meadows Police Department in keeping the community safe."