San Francisco officials declared Tuesday that the city’s sanctuary policies would remain intact, shutting down critics who blamed the protections for enabling the high profile murder of Kathryn Steinle by an illegal immigrant in July.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution that encourages the sheriff not to alert U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials when an illegal immigrant is released from jail, despite the agency’s request for notification in such circumstances.
The resolution upholds the city’s status as a sanctuary jurisdiction despite the policies coming under national scrutiny after seven-time convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was previously deported to Mexico five times, was released from local custody and later charged with fatally shooting Steinle on a San Francisco pier.
The incident ignited sharp criticism of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi for implementing a policy that bars his deputies from notifying federal immigration officials of such releases.
One of his most vocal critics has been Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California who slammed the sheriff’s policy as a catalyst to Steinle’s death.
“These murders could have been prevented if there were open channels of communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities about dangerous individuals,” Feinstein said Tuesday.
“A simple phone call would have been enough, but Sheriff Mirkarimi failed to notify federal officials.”
Her comments arrived just before Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have stripped funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration law.
San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos called Feinstein’s criticism “absolutely wrong,” adding that lawmakers have attempted to politicize Steinle’s death “to score political points.”
He said Lopez-Sanchez had no intent “to harm anyone,” citing evidence that found the bullet ricocheted off of pavement prior to striking Steinle. Investigators said the evidence aligned with Lopez-Sanchez’s statement that he found the gun near the pier and accidentally fired the weapon after picking it up.
“There’s no causal relationship between our sanctuary city policies and the death that occurred on Pier 14 in San Francisco,” Avalos said. “There’s just a series of coincidences that happened that people add up to saying that there was a causal relationship between our sanctuary city policies and Kate Steinle’s death and nothing is further from the truth.”
He defended the policies for providing a “safe place” for illegal immigrants, adding that when immigrants mistrust law enforcement, “it makes public safety efforts very, very challenging.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, called San Francisco’s decision to retain its status as a sanctuary city “outrageous.”
“San Francisco’s reckless decision to retain its sanctuary policy guarantees that more residents of the city will continue to be murdered, raped, assaulted and robbed in crimes that could have been prevented,” he said.