Assessing Claims About an Illegal Immigrant Arrested for Murder in Maryland

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent's badge on September 25, 2019. (Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

In a recent video, Liz Wheeler, a conservative commentator and host of The Liz Wheeler Show, claims that an undocumented immigrant was charged with murder in the death of a toddler despite multiple deportation orders being filed against him.

“This illegal alien has been arrested for allegedly murdering a 2-year-old,” Wheeler says in the video. “He’d been arrested multiple times before, but he wasn’t deported. Why? Because Democrats’ sanctuary cities refused to honor and execute his deportation order. And now a 2-year-old baby is dead.”

Wheeler’s video addresses the February 8 shooting death of Jeremy Poou-Caceres in Prince George County, Maryland. Poou-Caceres was inadvertently shot during a clash between two groups of men outside of an apartment complex after what a witness claimed was a dispute over their respective drug distribution territories.

Wheeler is correct that an undocumented immigrant has been charged with murder in Poou-Caceres’ death. Nilson Granados-Trejo, 25, did not participate in the shootout directly, but he was a passenger in the vehicle of two other suspects and was identified by Maryland Assistant State’s Attorney Giovanna Miller as being a “co-conspirator or an accomplice” to the murder.

Two suspects—Israel Fuentes Jr. and Johnny Alejandro Turcios—were initially arrested the day after the shooting, but the Prince George’s County Police Department continued to search for others who were involved. On February 16, two teens whose names are being withheld were also arrested on charges of first- and second-degree murder. Granados-Trejo was subsequently arrested on February 26 and charged with both first- and second-degree murder. After the arrest, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to FOX 5 DC that Granados-Trejo is “an unlawfully present Salvadoran national,” but there is no indication yet that any of the other four suspects were in the country illegally.

It is also true Granados-Trejos had previously been arrested in the U.S., and multiple immigration detainers were filed against him prior to his involvement in the Maryland shooting.

According to records retrieved by FOX 5 DC, an immigration judge in New Jersey ordered Granados-Trejos’ removal in November 2022. However, he was not deported and was arrested by the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) in March 2023 for theft. While in MCPD custody, an immigration detainer was filed against Granados-Trejos by ICE, but it was not honored and he was released by Montgomery County authorities less than a week later. Granados-Trejos was arrested again by MCPD in September 2023, but was released in October 2023 despite another immigration detainer being filed against him.

Immigration detainers can be lodged by ICE to prevent the release of noncitizens who have been arrested and may be removable. According to ICE, a detainer “asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE before a removable individual is released from custody and to maintain custody of the non-citizen for a brief period of time so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody.” Typically, these detainers request a hold of an additional 48 hours, though neither of ICE’s requests to hold Granados-Trejo beyond his release date were honored by MCPD.

While Montgomery County is not a formal sanctuary jurisdiction, its current policy on immigration enforcement “is not to inquire about anyone’s immigration status” nor to “conduct any immigration enforcement or investigations.” ICE has openly criticized Montgomery County for its non-cooperation policies in the past, writing in a November 2019 press release that, “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.” On March 1, 2024, following Granados-Trejo’s arrest, ICE announced that it and Montgomery County had reached an agreement to better honor immigration detainers. Moving forward, the county will notify ICE of release dates for “egregious offenders.”

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