San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi speaks at a press conference about the circumstances that led up to the April 15, 2015 release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, suspect in the killing of Kathryn Steinle. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

SF Sheriff calls for clarity regarding communication with feds on undocumented persons

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Thursday called for a Board of Supervisors hearing to clarify city law on communicating with immigration authorities when an undocumented person is in County Jail.

Mirkarimi’s call for a hearing — a response to a request from Mayor Ed Lee that, Mirkarimi says, would subvert city law — is the latest political fallout following the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14.

Steinle, 32, was allegedly killed July 1 by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a repeat nonviolent felon who most recently served time in federal prison for illegally reentering the country.

Prior to the killing, Lopez-Sanchez was taken to San Francisco on a 20-year-old possession of marijuana for sale warrant after his release from prison. The marijuana charge was dropped not long after he arrived in The City. Immigration and Customs

Enforcement had asked The City to hold him, but city law bars such holds.
“This tragedy spotlights the need for legal clarity at every government level,” Mirkarimi said. “This matter requires an open and honest conversation about the legislative intent and meaning of San Francisco’s ordinances and how they comport with everyday enforcement of laws leading to deportations.”

Mirkarimi and Lee have been jabbing one another in recent weeks over what exactly the city law says about how, when and if the Sheriff’s Department can speak with ICE.

Mirkarimi’s hearing request is in response to a letter Lee sent July 14 asking the Sheriff’s Department to rescind its policy regarding contact with ICE. Lee says simply telling ICE of an inmate’s release date does not subvert The City’s Sanctuary Law or its Due Process for All Ordinance.

The letter was matched with statements made by Lee before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

“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. “This policy is a threat to public safety. This policy should be rescinded immediately.”

Mirkarimi’s reply letter said Lee’s request to “rescind the policy and require the SFSD to contact federal immigration officials would eviscerate The City’s Due Process For All Ordinance, an ordinance [he] supported and which [Lee] signed into law.”

As it stands, the department only honors hold requests if an inmate is a convicted violent felon who faces another violent felony charge. In all other cases, the department requires that ICE obtain a warrant or court order.

The department says any other action would not align with Fourth Amendment right to due process.

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