NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Federal immigration officials weighed in Friday on Mayor Bill de Blasio's sanctuary city policy.
At the center of the issue: The brutal murder of a 92-year-old in Queens.
As the South Richmond Hill, Queens community prepares to bury 92-year-old Maria Fuertes, in a rare move, federal immigration officials gather to say her Jan. 6 murder could have been prevented.
"A phone call, one simple phone call, and Maria Fuertes could be alive today," said Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Matthew Albence.
Reeaz Khan was arrested and charged in the brutal murder and sexual assault. BUt ICE wanted to take the undocumented 21-year-old into custody back in November, after he was charged with beating up his father in a different incident.
Because of New York City's sanctuary law, police did not turn him over. Instead, Khan was released as the case made its way through the court system.
"Most times we don't know the criminal alien's been released, because these sanctuary jurisdictions won't even tell us," said Albence.
From July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019, of the nearly 3,000 detainer requests issued by ICE, the NYPD has shared information about seven detainees - only because they had already been convicted of a violent crime.
Attorney General Tish James told CBS New York's political reporter Marcia Kramer sanctuary policies don't put the public in danger.
"Right now, what we are experiencing are record low levels of crime in New York City, and that's the result of the fine work of the NYPD," James said.
ICE does not need local law enforcement's help to track people down.
"We made thousands of arrests in this field office last year. Most of those arrests were individuals who were in custody that were released who we had to track down," Albence said.
As for Queens murder suspect Reeaz Khan?
"We are out there every day trying to find thousands," Albence said.
ICE did not say if immigration officers specifically tried to find the 21-year-old after his release following the first incident.
Khan remains in police custody. Next week, he'll be in court on the assault charge against his father.
As for the murder of Maria Fuertes, currently a grand jury is weighing in.
The Police Benevolent Association entered the fight, saying officers are against the sanctuary policy. They're putting the blame squarely on Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Earlier this week, the mayor said ICE was using "scare tactics" and stood by his plan.
for more features.