San Francisco and ICE fight over who turned a murderer loose – “Hey, It’s Not My Job!”

Posted on July 19, 2015


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Because the publicity that has attached itself to Kathryn Steinle’s murder is so toxic, city officials in San Francisco and the Department of Homeland Security are engaged in a food fight over who allowed her murderer to walk free on the street, among us. The answer is both and a few other players besides.

Instead of taking accountability and taking corrective measures, city and federal authorities are pointing the finger at each other as to who is responsible for the circumstance that led to Ms. Steinle’s tragic death. And, as Joe Guzzardi, writing on the Californians for Population Stabilization website observes, some officials are blaming Congress for not passing an amnesty bill as the reason for the circumstances that led to Kathryn’s senseless and needless death.

A consistent tactic of these city officials and anti-immigration enforcement groups is to use non compliance as extortion to force Congress to enact amnesty that goes even beyond Barack Obama’s executive orders. The problem with that, as we’ve seen, is that citizens are left to the wolves.

Virginia Kice of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in responding to San Francisco’s efforts at excusing themselves from honoring the immigration hold that would have kept Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez in custody and Kate Steinle alive:

“An individual with a lengthy criminal history, who is now the suspect in a tragic murder case, was released onto the street rather than being turned over to ICE for deportation. We’re not asking local cops to do our job. All we’re asking is that they notify us when a serious foreign national criminal offender is being released to the street so we can arrange to take custody.”

City officials, including San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, seek to absolve their culpability by blaming Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for submitting to them only a detainer request. They claim that detainer requests – a notice that DHS issues to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to inform the LEA that ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in the LEA’s custody, are not legal based on recent court decisions. Mirkarimi said Kice misses the point. “ICE was informed about San Francisco’s position on detainers, but did not seek a court order for Sanchez’s transfer as required under the law.”

This is an excuse that rings hollow. It’s as if human life comes a distant second to trivial points of procedure in the minds of San Francisco’s public officials. While San Francisco and Washington quibble over the minutiae of federal immigration detainers, citizens remain targets of violent crime.

“They had his rap sheet and they were well aware of our policies,” said Mirkarimi. “The natural question is, why wouldn’t they follow through with a warrant for this suspect?” He said Ms. Steinle’s killing was “a horrible and senseless act that requires ICE to really work with local governments in a way that comports with local law.”

Pop goes the weasel.

Federal officials maintain that as soon as they were alerted of Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s transfer from federal prison to San Francisco, they issued a request to Sheriff Mirkarimi to notify them if and when he would be released and that an order for deportation was prepared for the contingency.

“We are just asking for a heads-up, a phone call,” said Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for ICE. “We did not hear anything until the day this young woman was killed.”

As we will see in further detail, San Francisco and Sheriff Mirkarimi are in violation of the latest iteration of what was previously known as the Secure Communities program, now called the Priority Enforcement Program, (PEP).

Amazingly, the scrutiny that has been unleashed by the unexpected level of publicity of Kathryn Steinle’s death, now has San Francisco public officials even pointing the finger of blame at each other.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, unmistakably assigned culpability away from the policy he himself spearheaded and toward the Sheriff’s Department. He placed some blame for the mishandling of Mr. Lopez-Sanchez on the County Sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, who released him on April 15 without notifying federal agents.  “I think a simple phone call would have done the trick,” Lee said. “I think the sheriff dropped the ball there.” He said more direct communication with federal agents might be needed. If San Francisco joined the Homeland Security program, it would be a reversal of the city’s longstanding reluctance to cooperate with the federal immigration authorities.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, known to my readers as “Feinkenstein”, apparently now recognizes the potential harm to the Democrat brand from any more incidents similar to the Kathryn Steinle case. Feinstein, during her term as Mayor of San Francisco, signed into law, the granddaddy of Sanctuary laws, the ‘City and County Refuge Ordinance’ in 1985. It was, according to their resolution recommending the ordinance to the Mayor, their interpretation of federal court rulings that cities were not obligated to assist or cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.

At the time, as now, there was social upheaval and violence taking place in El Salvador and Guatemala. Then, the violence had more to do with the terrorizing of the populace by government and rebel forces engaged in civil war in Central America, as compared to the present nature of the violence stemming from narco trafficking gangs, which is driving refugee migration.
The ordinance cements non-cooperation with immigration enforcement by placing strategic walls of separation between city agencies, such as social services and police and sheriffs. The phrase that sums it up best, is a familiar one – “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

And again, the legal theory this law was based on, was a decision coming out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Gonzales vs. City Of Peoria (AZ) case, where the justices ruled that although law enforcement is Constitutionally within its bounds to act as support to ICE, when clear probable cause exists to suspect immigration violations, they are, on the other hand, not obligated to do so. It’s the “not obligated to do so”, part of the ruling that the SF Board of Supervisors were looking to exploit.

Now that her ill conceived decision to sign that ordinance into law, is being seen as the root of the current evil, Feinstein is doing an about face, or at least going through the motions. Feinstein, in a press conference on the Steinle murder, said:
“I strongly believe an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released. We should focus on convicting criminals, not setting them loose on our streets.”

Ms. Feinstein is now recommending San Francisco participate in the DHS’ Priority Enforcement Program. The precise nature of how PEP is going to function operationally and the cooperative role of cities and counties, was withheld from the public, triggering a FOIA request from some anti-enforcement groups. Such is the nature of agency initiatives that are prompted by executive orders from the White House.

This much, we do know; PEP arbitrarily compels ICE to refrain from enforcing immigration laws on anyone who is not a recent border crosser – essentially someone who has been interdicted in the course of patrolling the border, convicted felons and suspected terrorists. To sum up the directive, it is essentially enforcement based on a seniority plan – rewarding people who have been the most successful in evading detection.

The Priority Enforcement Plan, flips the equation of the 48 hour hold on convicted felons among the illegal population in municipal jails. Whereas in the now cancelled “Secure Communities” program that PEP replaces, ICE sent detainer requests for cities and counties to hold the individual for 48 hours, the new plan asks for 48 hours lead time for ICE to be able to take illegals into federal custody.

In the next in this series about the tug of war between local and federal jurisdictions on immigration enforcement, we’ll not only look at the court decisions the cities are using to justify their non-cooperation, but how the Obama White House has also neutered ICE and hampered their efforts. Plus, we’ll see what Congress has tried to do and what it is doing now, to provide a push back against these recalcitrant city and state officials.

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