Sanctuary Cities

September 9, 2015 Weekly Immigration Reform Report from Federation for American Immigration Reform(FAIR)

  • Congress Must Act Now to End Sanctuary City Policies
  • Steinle Family Files Lawsuit against San Francisco, ICE, and Bureau of Land Management

Congress Must Act Now to End Sanctuary City Policies

The serious threat that sanctuary cities — State and local jurisdictions with policies that obstruct immigration enforcement — pose to the safety of the American people has finally received media attention after the tragic murder this summer of Kate Steinle. In July, Ms. Steinle was allegedly shot and killed in San Francisco (a sanctuary city) by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal alien with seven convictions and five previous deportations. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015) In a jailhouse interview, Sanchez admitted he went to San Francisco because he knew it is a sanctuary city that would protect him from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Id.)

Immediately after the Steinle murder, Members of Congress from both parties voiced opposition to sanctuary cities and several Republican lawmakers introduced bills that would deny federal funds to them. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 14, 2015) Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who implemented San Francisco’s first sanctuary policy years ago when she was Mayor, said she “strongly believe[s] that an [illegal alien], convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released.” (Washington Times, July 7, 2015) She continued, “We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am looking at whether additional federal legislation may be necessary.” (Id.)

Yet, despite the public posturing by lawmakers, Congress failed to pass any legislation before they departed for the annual August recess that would end sanctuary city policies. With Congress back in Washington, FAIR’s Government Relations team has prepared the following package of resources to demonstrate that lawmakers must immediately get back to work and pass legislation that ends dangerous sanctuary cities.

To read the full report, click here.

Steinle Family Files Lawsuit against San Francisco, ICE, and Bureau of Land Management

Last Tuesday, the family of Kate Steinle announced that they filed a lawsuit against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), claiming officials are partly responsible for Steinle’s murder. (Fox News, Sept. 1, 2015) In July, the 32-year-old was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal alien, just months after he was released from San Francisco law enforcement custody.

The accused murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, is an illegal alien with seven convictions and five deportations under his belt. (SFGate, July 4, 2015) Lopez-Sanchez was previously in federal custody and would have been deported for the sixth time before he was transported to San Francisco to address a 20-year-old drug charge. (Pleasanton Patch, July 22, 2015) When the charge was thrown out by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department refused to honor a detainer request to transfer Lopez-Sanchez to ICE. (Id.) Instead, the Sheriff’s Department, pursuant to its sanctuary policy, released Lopez-Sanchez back into the community. (Id.) Just a few months later, Lopez-Sanchez allegedly shot Steinle with a firearm belonging to BLM.

The Steinle family claims that San Francisco Sheriff Mirkarimi acted negligently and violated federal laws requiring that local officials be able to openly communicate with ICE regarding the immigration status of an individual. (Claim against San Francisco8 U.S.C. § 1373) San Francisco is a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city,” with policies directing its law enforcement to release criminal aliens onto the streets instead of holding them for transfer of custody to ICE. (Executive Directive 07-01File No. 130764Press Release, May 29, 2014) Sanctuary cities are state and local jurisdictions with policies intended to impede the enforcement of immigration law by federal immigration officials. These policies, which proponents argue are intended to foster “trust” with law enforcement in immigrant communities, are designed to protect criminal aliens from detection and removal from the United States by restricting compliance with detainer requests, often called ICE holds. (Pew Charitable Trusts, Oct. 31, 2014; ICE Detainer Form)

The Steinle family also claims that ICE failed to carry out its mandatory responsibility by failing to detain and deport a convicted felon and that a BLM agent failed to follow mandatory procedures for securing and storing a firearm. (Claim against DHSClaim against DOI) The Steinle family’s complaint against ICE also points out that ICE knew that San Francisco was a “sanctuary city” and would not cooperate with ICE at the time it transferred custody of Lopez-Sanchez. (Id.)

“The system failed our sister,” Brad Steinle, Kate’s brother, said at the press conference last Tuesday. (ABC News, Sept. 1, 2015) “And at this point nobody has taken responsibility, accountability. And nothing has changed.” (Id.)