(CNSNews.com) -- The Chicago Police Department declined to enforce an immigration detainer on an illegal alien with several felony convictions and, as a result, the man was free to allegedly sexually assault a three-year-old girl in the bathroom of a McDonald's in Chicago, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a Feb. 27 press release.
The suspect, Christopher Puente, 34, is a Mexican national "who is a previously deported aggravated felon illegally present in the United States," said ICE.
In June 2019, ICE lodged an immigration detainer with the Chicago Police Department on Puente, who had "several felony convictions and a prior removal, after he was arrested for theft," said ICE.
However, the Chicago Police Department did not honor the detainer and on Feb. 19, 2020, Puente was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl in the bathroom stall of a McDonald's restaurant in the River North area of Chicago.
According to ABC7 in Chicago, the father took his little girl and his son into the men's room. He took the boy into one stall and told the girl to wait outside the stall door. At that point, Puente, in another stall, allegedly waved the girl over to him, grabbed her, and locked the stall door.
"According to prosecutors ... Puente said that he had the victim by the back of the head, covered mouth, and told her 'shhhh,'" reported ABC7. "Prosecutors said the girl's father heard his daughter's cries and desperately tried to open the locked stall. He could see her feet dangling off the ground, so he grabbed her legs and pulled her out from under the stall. He ran out of the bathroom with her, leaving Puente inside the bathroom."
"The girl was hospitalized after the alleged rape," reported ABC7. "Surveillance pictures of Puente exiting the bathroom were circulated by police earlier this week before Puente was arrested Wednesday."
“How many more victims must there be before lawmakers realize that sanctuary policies do not protect the innocent?” said Robert Guadian, field office director of Chicago Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
“Puente should have been in ICE custody last year and removed to his home country. Instead, irresponsible lawmaking allowed him to walk free and prey on our most vulnerable," said Guadian, as reported by ICE.
Puente has a long criminal history, said ICE, including two felony convictions for burglary (2011 and 2017) and forgery (2012). On Dec. 5, 2014, ERO officers removed Puente to Mexico.
"Five days later, on Dec. 10, 2014, border agents encountered Puente at the Brownsville, Texas, border crossing," said ICE. "Puente claimed to be a U.S. citizen and presented a birth certificate. Puente was subsequently charged with falsely claiming citizenship and served a notice to appear before an immigration judge. On March 30, 2017, an immigration judge ordered Puente removed, in absentia, as he failed to show up for his immigration hearing."
After Puente's most recent arrest for sexual assault, ICE filed an immigration detainer on him with the Cook County Jail.
In fiscal year 2019, "Cook County declined more than 1,000 detainers," reported ICE.
"ICE lodges detainers on individuals who have been arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens," said the agency in its statement. "The detainer asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE in advance of release and to maintain custody of the alien for a brief time so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody."
"When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission," said the agency. "When law enforcement agencies don’t honor ICE detainers, individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat."