- Officials approved a clarification in the law to only allow police to turn suspects over to immigration officials if convicted of a violent crime
- It also gave San Francisco’s sheriff leeway to report repeat offenders
- The vote comes after the shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was walking along a San Francisco pier
- She was shot by a Mexican national released from jail despite a federal request to keep him in custody for deportation
San Francisco is keeping its controversial rules protecting illegal immigrants – despite pressure to scrap the sanctuary law after a Mexican national killed an American woman in a random shooting.
The city’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday for a clarification in the law that would only allow police to turn suspects over to federal immigration authorities, if they have been convicted of a violent crime within the last seven years.
However, it did allow San Francisco’s sheriff leeway to contact immigration officials for repeat offenders.
San Francisco’s City of Refuge act of 1989, in which authorities are not obligated to provide tell immigration authorities when they encounter an illegal immigrant, came under fire last year after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was shot dead by a Mexican national while walking along a pier.
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San Francisco is keeping its controversial rules protecting illegal immigrants – despite pressure to scrap the sanctuary law after Mexican national Francisco Sanchez (right) killed American woman Kate Steinle (left) in a random shooting
Francisco Sanchez, who was facing drugs charges and was in the country illegally after being deported five times, was charged with her murder.
He had been released from San Francisco’s jail despite a federal request to keep him in custody for deportation.
The shooting sparked fierce backlash against city leaders over San Francisco’s ‘soft’ stance on illegal immigrants.
Critics and politicians, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, had called for tougher immigration laws and scrapping of the sanctuary law.
The sheriff at the time, Ross Mirkarimi had blamed the law on the decision to release Sanchez back onto the city streets.
Steinle was shot to death on a San Francisco pier. Authorities are seen in this file image taken from video
His replacement Vicki Hennessy, who took office in January, has called for more discretion for law enforcement to be able to inform immigration authorities about criminal suspects.
She had fought the Board’s proposal although she admitted that even if she had been the sheriff at the time of the tragic shooting, she wouldn’t have contacted the ICE about Sanchez because he was not wanted on a felony.
‘Would Sanchez-Lopez have been detained under the sheriff’s new criteria? ‘I’m not going to say with certainty, but what I can say with certainty is that he would have been looked at,’ Hennessy said before the vote Tuesday.
FRANCISCO SANCHEZ: 7-TIME FELON RELEASED ONTO U.S. STREETS
Deported five times to Mexico
7-time felon across multiple states, including: Texas, Oregon and Arizona
Now accused of murder in California
Reportedly has multiple aliases with several birth dates
Had an ICE ‘detainer,’ meaning local authorities were flagged to hold him for immigration
Was most recently released following a marijuana arrest four months ag
Hennessy eventually agreed to a ‘compromise’ which allows her to share information on suspects with the ICE if the person is charged with a felony and has been convicted of one serious felony or convicted of three other qualifying felonies within the previous five years.
‘We reached agreement that will serve public safety, family unity and bring our community together,’ she said.
Supervisor John Avalos, the legislation’s chief sponsor and longtime immigration advocate, said the ordinance reaffirms the message to immigrants that they won’t be deported for reporting a crime or cooperating with police. ‘We want to keep that clear separation,’ he said.
The shooting of Steinle, described as a ‘loving and caring person’ by her distraught family, in July 2015 had sparked national outrage and calls for greater immigration laws from across the country.
Immigration officials revealed that Sanchez should have been sent to them when he was arrested four months prior to the killing, but was let go in accordance with San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary city’ policy.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had marked him as an ‘enforcement priority’ who should have been handed over immediately.
She’ll be missed: Kate, pictured here with a male friend, was taken to hospital after the shooting where she sadly died
Beautiful bridesmaid: Here Kate is pictured celebrating as a bridesmaid at a friends wedding.
Brad Steinle, Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, the brother, mother and father of Steinle listen to their attorneys speak during a news conference on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco (September 2015 file photo)
But San Francisco officials admitted that due to a soft policy on undocumented immigrants, they do not always comply with the requests – which in Sanchez’s case left him out on the streets on the night of the murder.
Republicans in Congress sought to punish cities like San Francisco, which is among hundreds of jurisdictions that decline to honor federal immigration requests, or ‘detainers.’
Even prominent Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, criticized Mirkarimi, saying repeat drug offender Juan Francisco Sanchez-Lopez should have been detained.
Sanctuary-city critics continue to chastise San Francisco officials. But immigration advocates say a bright-line rule is needed to protect people such as Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno.
The El Salvador native is in deportation proceedings after going to San Francisco police last year to report his car missing. He was in custody for two months.
‘What happened to me was an injustice,’ he said through an interpreter Monday. ‘They unjustly deprived me of my liberties for two months.’