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Multnomah County Sheriff Says He Couldn't Detain Man Who Was Deported 20 Times

Multnomah County's sheriff is defending how his office handled the case of an immigrant who has been deported several times and was allegedly involved in violent crimes last week.

Police arrested Sergio Jose Martinez, 31, on July 25 after receiving reports he was carrying a knife and had assaulted two women. One of those women was a 65-year-old Northeast Portland woman, who police say Martinez physically and sexually assaulted in her home before stealing her car.

Martinez's case gained international attention after officials with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said he had been deported 20 times prior to his latest arrest.

"20-Time Deportee Moves to Sanctuary City, Allegedly Rapes 65-Year-Old Woman," reported Breitbart News.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese issued a statement Monday placing the responsibility for Martinez's release squarely on ICE officials.

"This terrible incident is concerning for everyone," Reese said. "We held the defendant until he could not be legally held any longer."

Under Oregon's 30-year-old "sanctuary" law, local law enforcement agencies cannot use their resources to enforce federal immigration law if a person's only crime is being in the country illegally.

Court documents show Martinez has several criminal convictions in Oregon and other states. He was last released from Multnomah County Jail on July 17, mere days before the alleged assaults.

But Reese said Monday his agency had little choice in the matter.

"Prior to his release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had not sent a criminal warrant, signed by a judge, allowing MCSO to hold the defendant in jail," Reese wrote. "Instead, they processed a civil detainer, which they know cannot be legally used in Oregon."

Reese went on in his statement to demand that ICE explain what it has done to manage Martinez after he was deported 20 times.

"Given this defendant's repeated deportations following criminal convictions in the United States, it would help our community to understand how he was held accountable by federal authorities for multiple, illegal reentries," Reese wrote.

Jail records show Martinez remains in custody and faces 13 felony charges, ranging from first-degree sexual assault to kidnapping.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.