MIAMI — Immigration agents have deported another accused rapist before he could stand trial in Miami state court.
The Miami Herald has confirmed that a man named Alcedis Ortiz, 42, who is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl, was deported to Colombia, even though he was still awaiting trial on two felony charges, one punishable by life in prison.
He spent nearly five months in immigration custody before he was deported on Sept. 28, an ICE spokesman confirmed Friday.
The deportation comes less than two months after U.S. authorities had to extradite another suspected rapist back from Central America — because ICE agents booted him from the country before his trial in Miami. That case, first reported by the Miami Herald as part of a story on the trend of ICE deporting state-court defendants with open cases, blindsided Coral Gables police, prosecutors and the victim herself.
The continuing cases underscore how the federal government’s aggressive detention and deportation policies under President Donald Trump have disrupted Miami-Dade’s criminal-justice system, and those in other states across the country.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that within the past four weeks, her office and ICE counterparts have put new procedures in place to help improve communication, so that defendants don’t get deported before prosecutors have a chance to take them to trial.
Still, Fernandez Rundle said she was dismayed to learn the accused child rapist had been set free in Colombia.
“We have very serious concerns that other children are being put at risk,” Fernandez Rundle said. “We can’t allow this to happen back in Colombia just because they’re not our kids.”
ICE did not respond when asked why it chose to deport Ortiz, despite the seriousness of the pending case. State prosecutors, during the months Ortiz was in custody, could also have asked a judge to order Ortiz returned to a local jail. They did not. The office could not say why.
Immigration authorities have long deported immigrants convicted of serious crimes, but under previous presidents, they prioritized those who had served their sentences. Trump made tougher immigration enforcement a signature policy, casting a wider net on who is deported and moving to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with agents.
Increasingly, defendants have been detained and then deported before their local criminal cases have concluded, which critics say robs the state of Florida of its due-process rights — and also squashes any chance wrongfully accused people have to defend themselves in court.
It’s unclear how many times in recent years that ICE has deported undocumented immigrants with pending cases. The county corrections department, citing federal law, won’t reveal the identities of inmates who have an “immigration hold,” which is a designations from ICE that someone is eligible for deportations.
These cases are not unusual, said Miami immigration and criminal defense lawyer Evelyn Alonso. She said that once ICE takes someone away from the jail, they are rarely returned to stand trial before deportation, and that prosecutors rarely ask for them to be returned.
“This allows for some criminals to evade state prosecution by getting a free pass through deportation,” Alonso said.
Last year, the Miami Herald reported on a slew of such cases, including a Greek man accused of killing a cat with a crossbow, several men accused of cocaine trafficking and a man accused of robbery. More recently, a caretaker accused of stealing $100,000 in family jewelry from an elderly Coral Gables couple was arrested — and promptly deported before his trial.
“The victims were furious,” said Miami lawyer Michael Catalano, who represented the elderly couple. “They wanted the max five years in prison.”
The most high-profile case was that of restaurant manager Werner Orozco, who was accused of raping a woman in Coral Gables. Within days, ICE agents took him from the jail, before he could post bond, and he was deported to Guatemala in less than two weeks.
He later left Guatemala, and was spotted in Bimini working in a bar. Authorities later arrested him in Panama, he was extradited back to Miami in August.
Unlike Orozco, Ortiz was not immediately deported, but instead spent those months in Krome fighting to stay in the United States.
Ortiz was originally arrested in February after a 14-year-old told police that he had raped or groped her on at least four occasions when she was 12. According to a Miami-Dade police arrest report, Ortiz admitted to the crimes when confronted by a detective.
After weeks of legal wrangling over whether he was entitled to house arrest because of his immigration status, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mark Blumstein nevertheless granted him a bond from jail.
He never got out. ICE agents picked him up from a Miami-Dade jail on May 26 and took him to the Krome Detention Center, where many undocumented immigrants are generally held.
Although prosecutors had fought to keep him in a local jail, once he was in ICE custody, they never asked a judge for a “writ” — basically, a court order to have Ortiz returned to the jail. “I’m not aware of any efforts by the state to keep him in the country,” said his defense attorney, Joseph Nascimento.
According to his lawyer, Ortiz had applied for asylum, saying he feared for his life were he to be returned to Colombia. The petition was denied and an immigration judge ordered him deported, Nascimento said.
“He was hopeful of resolving his case, and hopeful to stay in this country,” Nascimento said. “He did not want to be in Colombia.”
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