After weeks of political mud slinging over who’s at fault for the events
that led to the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, a proposal intended to prevent such incidents has emerged in City Hall.
But some critics say the proposal is a betrayal of The City’s sanctuary status for undocumented immigrants and yet another attack on the embattled sheriff.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Mark Farrell made public his three-pronged proposal in reaction to Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s recent request of Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors to clarify how city agencies should deal with federal immigration officials.
“The public safety of San Francisco residents unequivocally comes first,” Farrell wrote in a statement. “Our Sanctuary City law has been a pillar of public safety policy for decades in San Francisco, but unfortunately this sheriff has implemented additional ideological policies that fly in the face of not only our local laws but federal law as well, and it must come to an end.”
While many San Francisco lawmakers have said they are against changing The City’s Due Process for All Ordinance, the proposal requests Mirkarimi to rescind his department’s policy that bars most communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Farrell also proposed a resolution supporting The City’s sanctuary status as well as a hearing to give law enforcement more guidance on the subject.
Lastly, Farrell is proposing a law mandating the Sheriff’s Department check with the District Attorney before transporting prisoners on a warrant to ensure the charges won’t be dropped.
The man who allegedly shot and killed Steinle, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was brought back to San Francisco on a 20-year-old warrant for marijuana possession, but the charges were subsequently dropped and he was released two weeks later.
Lopez-Sanchez has since pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is expected to appear in court Wednesday.
The package of reforms, as Farrell’s office is calling it, was sent to Mirkarimi in letter form and also includes a request for the sheriff to explain why his department held Lopez-Sanchez for two weeks after he should have been a free man.
The ongoing blame game emerged after the July 1 shooting death of Steinle, whom Lopez-Sanchez allegedly killed after being released from County Jail in April.
ICE officials had asked the Sheriff’s Department to hold him for deportation, but city law bars cooperation with immigration officials unless the person has been convicted of and faces a violent felony.
While Farrell’s proposals mirror those made by the mayor’s office in recent weeks, at least one lawmaker says it’s one more attempt to blame the whole affair on Mirkarimi.
“[Farrell’s] resolution attempts to affirm the Due Process for All Ordinance while weakening it by allowing the sheriff to use his discretion beyond the intention of Due Process for All,” Supervisor John Avalos told the San Francisco Examiner via text message.
“Farrell appears to be jumping on the ‘scapegoat the sheriff’ bandwagon,” Avalos continued. “Many San Francisco public officials, from the mayor on down, assume the sheriff is so unpopular that they can tell him he should handle ICE requests in a different way than we had required and intended in the Due Process for All Ordinance that we all supported.”
Avalos was the primary author of the Due Process for All Ordinance.
“There’s a national spotlight on San Francisco,” Avalos said, adding the result will weaken the local sanctuary and public safety protection, thereby allowing for a more right-wing vision of national immigration reform to prevail.
Sheriff’s officials say they’re looking forward to Farrell’s proposed hearing to clarify The City’s laws and give guidance over communication between the Sheriff’s Department and ICE.
But the proposal’s other elements are more problematic, said Mark Nico, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Department.
Nico said the existing ban on communication is not complete because the department will tell ICE when someone is in custody, what they are being charged with and other details of the case. But the department will not tell ICE of the release date, as it would essentially circumvent a prisoner’s constitutional rights.
As for the proposal to mandate communication with the DA on charging decisions, the Sheriff’s Department already does so on warrants in which the DA has jurisdiction. But bench warrants — used in the Lopez-Sanchez case — and court orders are issued by a judge and are beyond the DA’s jurisdiction, Nico said.CrimeJuan Francisco Lopez-SanchezKathryn SteinleMayor Ed LeeRoss MirkarimiSan Francisco Board of SupervisorsSan Francisco Sheriff