Salvadoran gang member wanted for murder removed from Minnesota during Trump’s last week 

President Joe Biden's administration has ordered an immediate pause on removals for 100 days.

Jose Wilmer Montano with officers from the National Civil Police upon his arrival in El Salvador. (National Civil Police/Twitter)

A Salvadoran gang member wanted on charges of aggravated murder, attempted murder and terrorism was removed from Minnesota during President Donald Trump’s final week in office.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 28-year-old Jose Wilmer Montano was removed from the United States on a charter flight coordinated by the agency’s Air Operations Unit and handed over to law enforcement in El Salvador on Jan. 15.

National Civil Police/Twitter

ICE officials said Montano was arrested on Sept. 22 by Bloomington police on drug and burglary charges. According to a press release, Montano was released from the Hennepin County Jail after agents with ICE’s St. Paul field office filed an immigration detainer.

A 2017 report from the Trump administration identified Hennepin County as one of dozens of local jurisdictions that limit cooperation with ICE by refusing to honor detainer requests. That report was criticized by former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who said local police have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration law.

“If ICE wishes a person remain in custody beyond the time he or she is scheduled for release, they must get a court order or they must pick that person up at the time of his or her release from the jail,” he said.

At the time, Stanek said Hennepin County was in the practice of letting ICE know when inmates were scheduled to be released so that they could be transferred to federal custody.

Unlike Stanek, Current Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson publicly stated in 2019 that his office was no longer alerting ICE about jail inmates who are in the country illegally.

It’s unclear if Hutchinson has maintained his predecessor’s practice of providing ICE with the time of release when a detainer request is filed, or if he has simply cut off all communication with the agency.

Montano was arrested by ICE agents on Sept. 24 and remained in the agency’s custody until his deportation.

National Civil Police/Twitter

In November, the government of El Salvador issued a warrant for Montano’s arrest on charges of murder, attempted murder, and committing an act of terrorism while using a firearm.

The charges stem from a 2015 incident in which Montano and two accomplices attacked a Salvadoran police building, killing a mechanic and injuring two officers. His co-conspirators were arrested shortly after the incident while he fled the country.

According to one Salvadoran outlet, the 2015 incident was an attack on an automotive workshop belonging to the National Civil Police, which took Montano into custody earlier this month.

Montano’s plane was greeted by Salvadoran officers and he was arrested on the tarmac, according to photos and videos released by the National Civil Police.

The agency said Montano is an active member of the “18R gang,” which appears to be a reference to a faction of the Barrio 18 street gang called Barrio 18-Revolucionarios.

A 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice said Barrio 18 and its rival MS-13 “have turned the Central American northern triangle into the area with the highest homicide rate in the world.”

Shortly after Montano’s removal, President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security ordered an “immediate pause on removals of any noncitizen with a final order of removal for 100 days.”

Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske said the pause on removals is intended to provide the Biden administration with time to “ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety.”