Salvadoran national deported on murder charge after Contra Costa County arrest

By Rick Hurd

Contra Costa Times
POSTED: 10/24/2013 01:27:03 PM PDT | UPDATED: 102 MIN. AGO

A Salvadoran national arrested last year in Contra Costa County and held in custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on a controversial policy has been handed over to El Salvador authorities to face a murder charge in his native country, authorities said.

Handy Brayan Guzman-Romero, 26, was turned over to the El Salvadoran Civilian National Police on Thursday, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE.

Guzman-Romero has been charged with first-degree murder in a criminal warrant issued by Salvadoran authorities for his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of another man in San Jorge, in northeastern El Salvador, on Nov. 6, 2008.

Guzman-Romero may never have been sent back to face that charge had ICE not taken him into custody in the days after his arrest by Contra Costa Sheriff's Office deputies. Guzman-Romero was arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run and driving without a license in May 2012, and when fingerprints revealed he'd been deported in 2007, ICE lodged an immigration detainer against him and took him into custody.

ICE's ability to lodge such detainers -- a notice that U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues to local agencies telling them they intend to take custody of illegal immigrants in custody -- was helped earlier this month when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, a new law that allows cooperation between local agencies and immigration agents when a defendant is accused of violent or serious crimes but not for lower-level offenses.

The Contra Costa Sheriff's Office turned over Guzman-Romero even though deputies found he had no criminal record in the United States and even though he had not been charged with a violent crime, Kice said. Several agencies, including Santa Clara County, refused to cooperate with ICE requests for so-called civil detainers before Trust Act was passed, and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office was not bound to do so in Guzman-Romero's case, Kice said.

"It really underscores the complexities of this issue," Kice said in an email. "Here was a guy who had no prior convictions ... and got arrested for relatively minor traffic violations. This is exactly the kind of situation where many local agencies likely would ignore ICE's detainer. ... But if that had been the case here ... it would have resulted in a murder suspect being released to the street."

Guzman-Romero argued in immigration court in Los Angeles that he should be allowed to remain in the United States, but Board of Immigration Appeals declined to block his deportation, Kice said. He was the 160th fugitive returned to El Salvador by ICE in fiscal year 2013.

Staff writer Robert Salonga contributed to this story. Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at