The parents of a woman shot to death on a San Francisco pier said Monday in a cable television news interview that they support a proposal to give mandatory prison time to deported people who return to the U.S. illegally.
Kathryn Steinle, 32, was walking along a waterfront in San Francisco when she was shot by a gun allegedly fired by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national who was in the country illegally.
Lopez-Sanchez, 45, who has pleaded not guilty, had been released from jail months before the shooting, despite a federal immigration order asking local authorities to hold him.
Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan, of Pleasanton, California, were interviewed by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly Monday on "The O'Reilly Factor."
O'Reilly proposed what he has dubbed "Kate's Law" on his show last week in an effort to prevent more killings by illegal immigrants with criminal records.
The death of Kate Steinle has fueled a national debate on immigration, with advocates of stricter border control denouncing San Francisco as a city whose immigrant "sanctuary" protections harbor people who are in the country illegally. Even some prominent Bay Area Democrats say Lopez-Sanchez should have been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Supporters of sanctuary protections have jumped on O'Reilly and others, saying they have politicized the death. They say public safety is improved when immigrants can work with local police without fear of deportation.
Steinle told O'Reilly his family is apolitical, but supports O'Reilly's efforts to pass Kate's Law, "because it would be a legacy in her name and her death would not go unnoticed."
The family does keep up with politics, Steinle said, because they "feel the federal, state, and cities, their laws are here to protect us. But we feel that this particular set of circumstances and the people involved, the different agencies let us down. We are just a little tired of the finger pointing and just want to see some action and if Kate's Law saves one person, then it is all for good."
O'Reilly said he has collected 400,000 signatures on a petition posted on his website
that he plans to deliver to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. O'Reilly said he would fly the family to Washington, D.C., so they can give their own input into the law.
O'Reilly's proposed law would mandate that any illegal alien convicted of a felony in the United States who comes back after being deported would serve a mandatory five years in federal prison upon apprehension. A second offense would bring a 10-year sentence.
"I just want it to be a good, solid law that won't have holes in it," Sullivan said. "I had no idea how many people have been killed by illegal aliens. We've had quite a few people reach out to us and we had no idea it was an issue. But something definitely needs to be done."
Federal records show Lopez-Sanchez had been deported three times before being sentenced to roughly five years in federal prison. He had completed another four years in federal prison when he was shipped to San Francisco March 26 on an outstanding 1995 drug charge.
The San Francisco District Attorney's office declined to prosecute, given the age of the case and the small amount of marijuana involved.
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department released Lopez-Sanchez on April 15, declining to honor a request by federal immigration authorities to keep Lopez-Sanchez in custody for 48 hours until they could pick him up for deportation proceedings.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has strenuously defended his decision, saying he was following city law, including a broader 1989 city "sanctuary" law and a more specific 2013 ordinance that applies specifically to federal immigration detainees.
Kate's brother Brad Steinle was interviewed on Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File"
later Monday, saying he found the sheriff's continued defense of the sanctuary policy "insulting," and said much of the responsibility for his sister's death is on the sheriff's shoulders.
Brad Steinle said Sanchez-Lopez was "the luckiest criminal that there has been. I mean, he was taken to San Francisco. Not charged. And released to walk the streets of San Francisco."
The family has set up a GoFundMe page
to aid causes their daughter cared about. As of Monday, the page had raised almost $88,000 from 1,300 donors.
Jim Steinle told O'Reilly his family is strong in faith, and that is what is helping them get through losing Kate. He described her last moments as he was walking along Pier 14 with her and they heard the gunshot that struck her in the chest.
She fell to the ground, and he gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until paramedics arrived.
Her last words were, "Help me, Dad."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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