San Francisco supervisors defend ordinance in wake of Pier 14 shooting

Byby Sergio Quintana via KGO logo
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
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As officials continue to investigate shooting at San Francisco's Pier 14, an immigration battle is being waged at the local and federal levels.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A man accused of murder in the shooting death of a 32-year-old woman in San Francisco pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. Bail was set at $5 million for 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez, who admitted to killing Kate Steinle in a jailhouse interview with ABC7 News.

VIDEO: SF Pier 14 shooting suspect allegedly used federal agent's gun

As officials continue to investigate the case, an immigration battle is being waged at the local and federal levels.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee regarding the case. It reads in part: "The tragic death of Ms. Steinle could have been avoided if the Sheriff's Department had notified ICE prior to the release of Mr. Sanchez, which would have allowed ICE to remove him from the country."

The senator says she's against some of San Francisco's sanctuary policies. And now, the city's supervisors are responding to her statement.

There was a regular board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday afternoon. But most of the conversations leading up to that meeting all surrounded San Francisco's sanctuary city policies, especially now that they're under the national microscope because of this case.

Video from 2013 shows Lee and the board during a signing ceremony for an ordinance called Due Process for All. It prevents the city's law enforcement agencies from cooperating with most immigration and custom's enforcement requests.

VIDEO: Family of woman killed in SF wants to focus on her life, legacy

On Monday, the mayor's office responded to a letter from Feinstein asking that San Francisco re-examine its relationship with ICE. But the author of that ordinance, Supervisor John Avalos, says that's not needed.

And every board member that ABC7 News talked with voiced their sympathies for Steinle's family, but said the ordinance is not the problem.

Supervisor David Campos co-authored the ordinance. He's curious why immigration agents didn't get a warrant for Sanchez.

"I would imagine and I would hope that if there is someone who is a threat to public safety, that those steps are taken," he said.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Man accused in SF shooting admits to crime

A spokesperson for ICE said they handed Sanchez over to sheriff's officials in March and issued an immigration detainer so they could pick him up.

But San Francisco and many other jurisdictions don't recognize immigration detainers.

Between January 2014 and June 2015, California agencies declined more than 10,000 of those immigration holds. That's more than the rest of the country combined.

Even with the new scrutiny, Avalos says Sanchez should be held responsible, not the city's policies.

Avalos: "Francisco Sanchez is responsible for what happened, period."

Reporter: "But if he hadn't been here, this would have happened."

Avalos: "Ummm..." he said before walking away.

San Francisco's local policy was questioned in the nation's capital on Tuesday. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee grilled a senior immigration official, asking how Francisco Sanchez could have been set free.

"Tell me specifically what is preventing us when we have people in this country illegally and they have had seven prior felony convictions, why aren't we able to deport those individuals?" asked Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin.

To which ICE Assistant Director Philip Miller answered, "In that particular case, our detainer was not honored."

When asked who didn't honor it, Miller said, "San Francisco Sheriff's Department did not honor our detainer that we lodged."

The city's sanctuary policy means it does not hold people who are here illegally. Local officials are saying federal officials know this and know how to work around it, but that they didn't.

"They know that they should have responded with a court order or federal warrant," said Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Federal officials say it's not feasible that they could do that for their hundreds of thousands of cases.

"So there's another criminal warrant but he was released into general society to create a murder, or commit a murder. I mean, does that make any sense to you? Cause I'll tell you, it doesn't make any sense to the American public," said Johnson.

Steinle's family has set up an online fundraising page to raise money for funeral costs and to collect donations for charities that were important to her. Click here for more information.

Click here for full coverage on the Pier 14 shooting.

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