Tags: Immigration | San Francisco | Ross Mirkarimi | sheriff | sanctuary | immigrants

San Francisco County Sheriff Defends Sanctuary Law After Shooting

Image: San Francisco County Sheriff Defends Sanctuary Law After Shooting
Sheriff of San Francisco Ross Mirkarimi. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

By    |   Tuesday, 07 Jul 2015 09:57 AM

Federal officials have been "well notified" that San Francisco law requires a court order or federal warrant to transfer and deport immigrants, county Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said Tuesday, but "they did not follow through."

"This isn't something that's cavalier or ad hoc," Mirkarimi told CNN's "New Day" program. "This has been affirmed by the U.S. federal District Court in Oregon. Local governments had been getting into significant trouble and liability because of false detainment."

The definition of such sanctuary places can vary, but generally, jurisdictions that have declared such laws have policies that limit the degree to which local law enforcement and government employees will assist in federal immigration procedures.

In San Francisco, a 1989 law, the City and County Refuge ordinance, prohibits employees from helping federal immigration enforcement efforts, unless court order or state law compels them to do so.

The law has come under fire after last week's killing of San Francisco resident Kate Steinle, 32, who was shot while walking on a city pier and popular tourist spot with her father. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and repeat felon, admitted to shooting the woman, claiming that he found the gun that was used at the beach and that he did not intend to shoot Steinle.

Sanchez has been deported to Mexico five times, and said he returned to San Francisco because of its status as a sanctuary city. He has been convicted of several felonies, but San Francisco authorities released him after dropping drug charges against him, even though federal officials wanted to know when he was being released.

Mirkarimi told CNN on Tuesday that under the Immigration Nationality Act, federal officials could have acted against Sanchez without interfacing with San Francisco, as he was brought there "on a years-old warrant for marijuana and narcotics possession."

"We rarely prosecute on marijuana possession," said Mirkarimi. "So the charge was summarily dismissed by the magistrate. And the suspect was detained for weeks later than his release date."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said it sent a request to the sheriff department to be notified when Sanchez was being released, but the department did not do so because of the sanctuary policy.

"This was not news to them," Mirkarimi said. "Like many other local governments, you need a court order and a warrant. That is what has been determined by local law, and we adhere to the laws. ... We honor all warrants and all court orders. But a document that does not have legal grounding becomes problematic."

He blamed the situation on the lack of a federal comprehensive immigration policy as it intersects with the criminal justice system, as such decisions default to law enforcement officials.

"We have a large immigrant population in San Francisco," said Mirkarimi. "Our sanctuary city laws are important to us and law enforcement because we're trying to build trust with our immigrant non-English-speaking population."

Sanchez's situation, said Mirkarimi, spotlights an "impasse and a tension between local, state and federal governments," and "what is not working as it relates to ICE and its practices."

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Federal officials have been "well notified "that San Francisco law requires a court order or federal warrant to transfer and deport immigrants, county Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said Tuesday, but "they did not follow through."
San Francisco, Ross Mirkarimi, sheriff, sanctuary, immigrants
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2015-57-07
Tuesday, 07 Jul 2015 09:57 AM
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