Federal immigration officials have asked Mayor Gavin Newsom to ease sanctuary laws following a triple homicide last month in which the main suspect was an illegal immigrant undergoing deportation proceedings.
Edwin Ramos pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three counts of murder with special circumstances attached because of Ramos’ alleged gang affiliation. The 21-year-old from El Salvador is charged with gunning down Tony Bologna, 48, and his two sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, with an AK-47 following a traffic altercation in the Excelsior district on June 22. Police say Ramos is a member of the MS-13 gang. He is being held without bail.
The case has put a national spotlight on San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policy as federal officials and the San Francisco sheriff publicly debate who is responsible for the release of an illegal immigrant with a criminal record, who should have been deported. Meanwhile, District Attorney Kamala Harris is being asked to reconsider her death penalty stance.
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials charged that The City previously released Ramos on April 2, allowing him to kill the Bolognas family. ICE officials say he was released before checking to see if he should be held for deportation — contradicting an assertion by San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey that federal officials were properly notified.
Ramos and another man had been arrested and held in late March, after police discovered a gun used in a double homicide in the car Ramos was driving. He was released April 2 after the District Attorney’s Office did not file charges.
The City’s Sanctuary City Ordinance prohibits city officials from reporting illegal immigrants unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant. Local law enforcement officers may inform ICE that they have arrested someone for a felony offense or who has a prior felony conviction, if officers become aware that the arrested person is an undocumented immigrant. However, city officials dealing with youths refused to report the illegal status of underaged felons, and Ramos reportedly was convicted of two felonies in 2003 and 2004, but never turned over for deportation.
In a letter sent to Newsom on Wednesday, ICE assistant secretary Julie L. Myers asked for additional access to records.
“The Sheriff’s Department currently has a policy that limit’s ICE’s ability to review booking, housing or computer documents,” Myers wrote. “Furthermore, ICE agents are not allowed to review any department logs or records that are maintained concerning prisoners identified as foreign nationals.”
Newsom’s office referred calls for comment to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department; a spokeswoman for the agency, Eileen Hirst, said they’ve worked “cooperatively with ICE” and were not aware of any federal statute they have violated.