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ICE arrests 19 in Colorado during national sex offender operation targeting immigrants for deportation

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest Edgar Pando-Carpio, 25, a Mexican national, during a nationwide operation by ICE targeting sex crime offenders in Denver on Feb. 13. Pando-Carpio pleaded guilty in August 2022 in Arapahoe County District Court to felony soliciting of child prostitution, court records show.  (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post/TNS)
By Saja Hindi Denver Post

DENVER – Early on a mid-February morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in unmarked vehicles gathered in an empty parking lot in Denver, nearly a quarter mile from the workplace of a man they had been tracking.

In a briefing, the officers described how they planned to arrest the 25-year-old, who was born in Mexico, as he arrived – a step in the deportation process. He had a felony conviction for soliciting for child prostitution on his record, and he would be among the last of 19 people targeted by ICE’s Denver field office and arrested as part of this year’s national Sex Offender Arrest and Removal operation, known as SOAR.

They were among 275 immigrants arrested across the country from Feb. 5 to Feb. 16, ICE announced Friday. SOAR operations focus on apprehending immigrants who are in the country without authorization and have been convicted of sex crimes.

In the parking lot on Feb. 13, Denver Post journalists attended the ICE officers’ briefing ahead of the arrest of Edgar Pando-Carpio to observe the federal agency’s annual operation and learn more about its enforcement of immigration laws in Colorado.

Officers discussed how they expected to find Pando-Carpio based on previous patterns: A gray Jeep Liberty would pick him up outside his house, they said, and take him to the car wash where he worked. The vehicle would likely make a few stops along the way.

After a couple of hours of waiting, the group was alerted by officers tailing Pando-Carpio that the Jeep was headed to the car wash. Soon after, immigration authorities arrived there and arrested him without incident. He later was booked into an Aurora detention facility.

Pando-Carpio pleaded guilty to the felony soliciting charge in August 2022 in Arapahoe County District Court, court records show. A judge sentenced him to 10 years probation; a sex-offender intensive supervision program, which required him to register as a sex offender in Colorado; and to pay fines, according to ICE.

He has been in the United States since he was 6 years old and previously qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some immigrants who came to the country as children from deportation as long as they continue to receive approval for renewals.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services terminated his status in June 2021, following his April 2021 criminal arrest, according to ICE. In November 2022, Arapahoe County issued a warrant for Pando-Carpio’s arrest, alleging failure to comply with his sentencing terms and conditions, that remained outstanding this month.

ICE’s Denver field office conducts enforcement in Colorado and Wyoming. During this month’s SOAR operation, ICE officers arrested eight people in metro Denver, two in the Florence area, four in the Frederick area and five in Grand Junction. Those targeted included other Mexican citizens and a citizen of the United Kingdom.

“This operation was successful in that it showed those who defy our laws and victimize others won’t be tolerated in our community,” said Arthur Wilson Jr., the acting Denver field office director, in a statement. “I applaud our officers’ efforts that enforced our nation’s immigration laws across the state.”

Colorado law restricts cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, providing some protections to undocumented immigrants – though ICE has been accused of circumventing such laws.

But state law does not prevent ICE, a federal agency, from making arrests in the state.

Between October 2022 and September , the latest data available, the Denver field office arrested 8,129 immigrants in its region. Of those, 717 had criminal convictions, 266 had pending criminal charges and 7,146 were accused of immigration violations. During the same period, the region detained 4,007 people and deported 1,571.

Under the state’s policies, if local police arrest a noncitizen, the person won’t be held for immigration authorities to pick up before they are released from jail. And not all jurisdictions notify ICE when someone is being released, said Greg Davies, the field office’s assistant director.

In Pando-Carpio’s case, he said, if Arapahoe County had taken the man into custody because of his warrant and jailed him, ICE likely would have had to conduct another operation to arrest him and try to deport him.