Update: SF mayor calls for end to sheriff’s policy that bars communication with ICE

People put white carnations into a glass vase in honor of Kathryn Steinle on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. (Michael Ares/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
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The finger pointing over the death of Kathryn Steinle has not ended.

In another shot at Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee called for rescinding the policy that some say had a hand in the death of Steinle — because the undocumented immigrant charged in the case was set free before the killing happened, not turned over to immigration officials.

Mirkarimi, meanwhile, says Lee’s proposal would violate the Fourth Amendment and misunderstands the very ordinance Lee signed.

“There is a policy in place today that prohibits this kind of communication between the sheriff’s deputies and immigration officials even in the case of dangerous repeat felons,” Lee said to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the same day he sent a letter to Mirkarimi asking him to change the department’s policy on communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “This policy is a threat to public safety. This policy should be rescinded immediately.”

Lee’s letter pointed to a department memo in March barring almost all communication with ICE without a court order or a warrant, following an Oregon court case that found the practice violated an inmate’s constitutional rights.

But Mirkarimi countered Lee’s letter and statements by saying such a change of policy would violate the city’s ordinance, which is meant to protect Fourth Amendment rights. That law, the Due Process for All Ordinance, was signed by Lee.

“The mayor has got to quit playing into the hands of Donald Trump,” said Mirkarimi. “…His deflecting blame still fails to address Fourth Amendment conflicts. The way to help achieve legal clarity is to amend the law he enabled, at the Board of Supervisors, where a transparent legislative process is afforded to all people. Naturally, we shall continue to adhere to enforcing all laws.”

On July 1, Steinle was shot and killed on Pier 14 allegedly by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican citizen who had been released from County Jail in April. Immigration authorities had asked the jail to hold him for deportation, but city law and sheriff’s department policies bar such holds and communication about inmates unless they are violent felons or face violent felony charges.

Supervisor John Avalos, the author of The City’s 2013 Due Process for All Ordinance, said the mayor’s statements were confusing and promote unconstitutional action.
“It looked like he talked out of all sides of his mouth. Most of all he appeared to be stepping into the national spotlight and ignoring local public safety intentions. He also ignored the fact that ICE hold requests and notification requests are unconstitutional,” said Avalos.

Meanwhile, protesters massed outside of City Hall on Tuesday defending The City’s sanctuary laws.

“It wasn’t the San Francisco policy that was at fault,” said USF Professor Bill Hing, adding that the Due Process for All law is about public safety and the sheriff acted as he should have. “The sheriff did his job.”

Joshua Sabatini and Joe Fitzgerald-Rodriguez contributed to this story.

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