Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 10:04 pm | Overcast 58º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Men Convicted of Raping Santa Barbara Woman Placed On ICE Detainers

Two men who were convicted of raping a homeless woman at knifepoint in Santa Barbara have been place on detainers by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, signaling they may have been in the country illegally at the time of the crimes, which took place last year.

Juan Carlos Herrera-Romero, 31, and Gabino Andres Romero, 27, who are cousins, each had a jury during the trial, in which both men were accused of sexually assaulting a woman on East Beach in the early hours of July 16, 2014.

Juries convicted the men, and Herrera-Romero faces a maximum sentence of 54 years to life in state prison, while Romero faces a maximum sentence of 36 years to life.

The immigration status was not brought up at the trials of the two men, but Noozhawk confirmed that both men are on immigration detainers.

Lori Haley, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Western Region, said that the two men did not have any other contacts with the agency in the past.

She could not share their country of origin.

Both men are on ICE detainers, Haley said, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover confirmed last week that both men were still in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail.

The detainer means ICE must be notified before the men are released from prison.

"It means we have a reason to believe they are potentially deportable," Haley said. "These people will serve out their cases. After that is when we would step in and determine next steps."

Law enforcement's process for undocumented immigrants who commit a crime has been under scrutiny since the shocking death of a Santa Maria woman in July.

Marilyn Pharis was attacked in her home and died from her injuries, and one of the men arrested in connection with Pharis’s death is an undocumented immigrant with prior arrests, which has led to questions about why the man was in the country in the first place after being detained by law enforcement.

On Tuesday, a hearing was called by Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who requested an overview of the policies after Pharis’s death.

Local law enforcement have said the problems stem from conflicting federal and state laws, such as the California TRUST Act, which states that counties could be financially liable for detaining people on Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders, Noozhawk reported from the meeting Tuesday.

ICE will place a detainer on someone who is in the country illegally and who has been convicted of a crime.

However, ICE doesn't have a representative in the Santa Barbara County Jail 24 hours a day, and people could slip through the cracks if they are able to post bail immediately, according to authorities. 

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >