Killing shines immigration spotlight on San Francisco
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee have separately expressed concerns that, prior to fatally shooting a 32-year-old woman near the San Francisco Ferry Building on Wednesday, suspect Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been deported five times for various felonies and was not handed over by The City to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for his sixth deportation.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, as a result of San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, instead released Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez from custody.
On July 4, Trump, who often takes to Twitter to advocate for conservative causes, tweeted:
“What about the undocumented immigrant with a record who killed the beautiful young women [sic](in front of her father) in San Fran. Get Smart!”
Trump, who wants to see the United States take a tougher stance on immigration, was referring to the shooting death of Pleasanton native Kathryn Steinle on Wednesday, who resided in San Francisco by suspect Lopez-Sanchez, who is roughly 45 years old and an undocumented immigrant.
Today, the tweet has received over 1,000 favorites by Twitter users.
Mayor Ed Lee released a statement Monday explaining that while Steinle’s death was “tragic and senseless,” it has prompted “much discussion about San Francisco’s Sanctuary City Policy.”
“Let me be clear: San Francisco’s Sanctuary City Policy protects residents regardless of immigration status and is not intended to protect repeat, serious and violent felons.”
The mayor went on to state that he is concerned about the circumstances that led to the release of Sanchez:
“All agencies involved, Federal and local, need to conduct quick, thorough and objective reviews of their own departmental policies and the decisions they made in this case.”
However, a statement released Friday by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, who released Lopez-Sanchez from custody, stated that Lopez-Sanchez’s drug-related criminal charges were dismissed.
The sheriff’s department went on to state that due to a 2013 San Francisco ordinance that prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer after the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, Lopez-Sanchez was deemed ineligible for extended detention.
Lee said he has made sure that no legislation eliminates the sheriff’s:
“… ability to make a case-by-case determination about honoring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.”
He said that the sanctuary policies should not create a safe harbor for convicted, violent felons, yet somehow the sheriff’s department failed to turn Lopez-Sanchez over to ICE.
The sheriff’s department notes that despite hundreds of municipalities throughout the country, including San Francisco, having amended their policies regarding ICE detainers, “ICE has not changed its policies or procedures to reflect that detainers are requests and not a legal basis to hold an individual.”
Lee said the purpose of the Sanctuary City policy is to allow undocumented immigrants to attend school, get access to social services, and report crimes without fear of their city government reporting them to federal authorities.
Lee said Republicans in Congress have blocked efforts by President Barack Obama and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to reform the country’s immigration laws:
“… unfortunately, leaving cities and local municipalities to act upon immigration issues that affect its residents.”
Steinle was with her family around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Pier 14, just off the Embarcadero in South Beach when she was struck by gunfire, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
Andraychak said medics found her suffering from at least one gunshot wound to the upper torso and transported her to San Francisco General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
No words were exchanged and there did not appear to be any connection between the victim and the suspect, according to Andraychak. He described the shooting as a “very random act.”
Witnesses at the scene photographed the man and later their pictures helped lead to his arrest, Andraychak said. Sanchez was detained within an hour as a “possible person of interest” after police located him walking near the corner of Embarcadero and Townsend Street, a few blocks from Pier 14.
Lopez-Sanchez, who was on probation out of Texas, is in custody and has been formally charged with murder. His arraignment has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, according to the district attorney’s office.
ICE officials took custody of Lopez-Sanchez in March, when he was remanded to the agency after serving a multi-year federal prison sentence for felony re-entry following deportation, ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen said in a statement.
ICE turned Sanchez over to San Francisco police on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant, Christensen said.
On March 27, San Francisco Superior Court dismissed the charges against Lopez-Sanchez.
The agency requested he be returned to ICE’s custody upon his release, but that request was not honored, according to Christensen.
Christensen said Sanchez had been deported five times, most recently in 2009. His criminal history includes seven prior felonies, including four involving narcotics, Christensen said.
According to Freya Horne, an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, at the time Lopez-Sanchez was booked, federal transportation orders reflected two conflicting release dates and that once the sheriff’s department:
“… confirmed that Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s federal prison time had been completed and that he had no active warrants, he was released from San Francisco County Jail on April 15, 2015.”
Horne said that when Lopez-Sanchez was booked into the jail, there was no active ICE warrant or judicial order of removal for him.
Horne said, however, “There was an ICE request for his detention,” and that he was ineligible for extended detention.
She said that if a warrant or court order was obtained, Lopez-Sanchez would have been returned to ICE for deportation proceedings.
Lee, however, maintains that the sheriff’s department had the authority to return the felon to ICE.