CHICAGO - There is major criticism being levied at Chicago leaders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement surrounding the sexual assault of a toddler inside a McDonald’s.
ICE says the suspect, identified as Christopher Puente, was in Chicago police custody last year on theft charges. The agency says police should have handed him over to ICE, but because Chicago’s a sanctuary city, Puente was let go.
Then, this month, Puente was accused of sexual assaulting a 3-year-old girl at a River North McDonald’s.
On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her decision, saying Chicago is doing what it can to keep residents safe and ICE itself needs to do a better job.
“Look, they’re critical because we have said very clearly we are a welcoming city, we are a sanctuary city. The Chicago Police Department will not cooperate with ICE on any immigration related business,” the mayor said.
Puente had previously been deported in 2014 after felony burglary and forgery convictions. After getting back into the US, a judge ordered him deported again in 2017, but Puente never showed up to his hearing.
Chicago police did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. Robert Guadian, field office director of Chicago Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), blamed what he called "irresponsible lawmaking" for Puentes release.
“How many more victims must there be before lawmakers realize that sanctuary policies do not protect the innocent?” Guadian asked. “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.”
Cook County, which includes Chicago, had previously come under fire from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who threatened to revoke federal funding over its sanctuary status. The Justice Department also sent letters to New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Milwaukee, and New York City.
ICE official Henry Lucero previously warned that Illinois' sanctuary status made it more difficult for federal authorities to track criminals.
“The most concerning issue about working in an area that refuses to cooperate with ICE is not only that we do not know which criminal aliens are being released from custody, but the public doesn’t know either,” he said.
FOX News contributed to this report.