Local and Congressional Action in the Wake of Kate Steinle’s Death

Site of Kate Steinle's death on Pier 14 in San Francisco (Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Site of Kate Steinle’s death on Pier 14 in San Francisco (Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

It has now been almost a month since 32 year old Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed as she walked along San Francisco’s Pier 14.

To recap the series of events, quickly following the shooting authorities arrested and charged Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with multiple drug related felonies to his name, as well as a history of deportation and re-entering the country. Earlier this year Lopez-Sanchez had been held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was slated to be deported again, but was instead sent to San Francisco this past April at the request of the sheriff’s office to face a 20-year old drug charge. However, the District Attorney decided to not prosecute, at which point the sheriff’s office checked if there was an ICE warrant for Lopez-Sanchez. Finding none, Lopez-Sanchez was released from custody without ICE being notified.

Why go behind their backs, you might ask? Because San Francisco has adopted so called Sanctuary Laws, policies that allow local law enforcement to not cooperate with ICE operations, which have in the past been severe and deeply damaging to immigrant communities throughout the country. Lopez-Sanchez now awaits trial and has pleaded not-guilty to murder.

This combination of events has now exploded into the national consciousness, intensifying the already charged debate around immigration. Business-tycoon-turned-presidential-candidate Donald Trump, who kicked off his campaign by labeling some immigrants as criminals and rapists, seized on Steinle’s death as proof of his stance. Bill O’Reilly declared that President Obama was indirectly complicit for allowing local governments to adopt non-cooperation laws towards federal immigration enforcement. Immigration advocacy groups, for their part, have called for a “sober dialogue” and are urging that the tragic events do not become a sweeping indictment of immigration reform.

So all this begs the question – what is being done to prevent another death like this from happening?

Locally, San Francisco supervisor Mark Farrell last week proposed a law that would force the city’s sheriff to verify with the district attorney that their office intends to prosecute the accused, before requesting an inmate be transferred from to the city. Had this happened in the case of Lopez-Sanchez, local authorities might never have brought him to the city in the first place.

But given the national dimension this event has taken, there have also been proposals making their way through Congress. Mr. Steinle, Kate’s father, recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee advocating for what’s been called Kate’s Law, which would jail for five years previously deported immigrants who re-enter the country illegally.

Thirdly, the Republican controlled House of Representatives recently passed a bill largely along party lines that would withhold federal money for public safety programs from states and cities that adopt Sanctuary policies. The bill now awaits consideration from the Senate.

Are any of these the right way to go? Or do you think officials should do something else entirely? Vote and comment below.

Verify Intent to Prosecute Before Transferring Inmates to San FranciscoWith the recent death of 32 year old Kate Steinle, San Francisco officials have been under pressure to reform the local law enforcement with regards to immigration. One such proposal, from Supervisor Mark Farrell, would require the city sheriff to verify with the district attorney that charges will be prosecuted on accused suspects before the sheriff requests a transfer from outside the city’s jurisdiction. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the undocumented immigrant accused of killing Steinle, had been transferred to San Francisco to face a long standing drug charge, but was soon released after the DA decided not to prosecute.

Kate’s Law: Five Year Imprisonment for Re-Entering Country IllegallyIn the wake of Kate Steinle’s death, the national debate around immigration has intensified. Steinle was shot and killed as she was walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14, and an undocumented immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has been charged with her murder. Lopez-Sanchez had been deported five times but was released by San Francisco authorities when Immigration and Customs Officials failed to produce a warrant for his arrest. Now the Senate is considering a bill that would jail for up to five years immigrants who have been deported but re-enter the country illegally. Do you support this measure?

Withhold Federal Public Safety Money From Sanctuary Cities and StatesJuan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a history of drug charges and illegal re-entry into the country, has been charged with the murder of Kate Steinle. Lopez-Sanchez was released from custody by San Francisco officials after long standing drug charges were dropped. Without a warrant from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), San Francisco’s Sanctuary laws allows local law enforcement to not comply with federal requests for undocumented immigrants. Now, Congress is considering legislation to punish states and cities that adopt sanctuary laws. Under the law, federal public safety money would be withheld from sanctuary cities and states.

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