Shooting returns CA to center of immigration fight

ImmigrationA slaying in San Francisco has sparked a national furor over its status as a so-called “sanctuary city” for unlawfully present immigrants. In an area popular with tourists, a five-time deportee named Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez shot Kathryn Steinle as she walked the waterfront with her father.

In addition to his five deportations, Lopez-Sanchez had racked up seven felony convictions since 1991, according to the Washington Post. “San Francisco authorities released him from custody in April after drug charges against him were dropped, despite an urgent request from the Department of Homeland Security that he be deported a sixth time to his native Mexico,” the Post reported.

Laying blame squarely at the feet of the city, federal officials have helped return California to the center of the immigration debate roiling the U.S. amidst the early stages of a presidential election season.

Municipal crisis

Caught flat-footed, city officials have scrambled to respond to the ballooning criticism. Donald Trump, who has made immigration enforcement a divisive wedge issue defining his maverick run for the presidency, recently seized upon the shooting as evidence justifying his proposed crackdown. City officials emphasized that their actions were in accordance with municipal law, as the Los Angeles Times noted:

“San Francisco’s ordinance made Sanchez ineligible for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold because he did not have ‘a violent felony conviction within the last seven years, or a probable cause for holding issued by a magistrate or judge on a current violent felony,’ said Freya Horne, an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. ‘Nothing in his background showed anything like that.'”

Lopez-Sanchez fell under the purview of a 2013 law adopted by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. “Since then,” added the Times, “dozens of cities and counties across the country have stopped complying with immigration “detainer” requests after a federal judge ruled that an Oregon county violated one woman’s 4th Amendment rights by holding her for immigration authorities without probable cause.”

Lopez-Sanchez has now been charged by city prosecutors in connection with Steinle’s killing, according to Fox News.

Election-year politics

Surprisingly, Lopez-Sanchez himself has weighed in on the immigration debate. Interviewed in jail by KGO-TV, he revealed that “he chose to return repeatedly to San Francisco […] solely because he felt protected from deportation,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Horserace watchers, the Chronicle noted, have speculated that the controversy could become a “Willie Horton moment” in the 2016 election cycle — a reference to then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush’s opportunity to score points against rival Michael Dukakis, who had supported a weekend furlough program as governor of Massachusetts that allowed a convict to committed a string of violent felonies.

But this time around, the field of contenders for the GOP nomination has split on immigration, with some candidates implying support for Trump’s stance and others remaining opposed.

Across California, some Republicans have quickly voiced their disgust with Democrats’ lenient attitude on immigration. “There has also been harsh criticism at the state level from conservatives such as Tea Party favorite and former GOP assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who is now a talk show host,” the Chronicle continued. “He called on state Democrats to take direct responsibility for immigration policies that he charged are ‘putting the public’s safety at risk.'”

Democrats, meanwhile, have not responded in kind. State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who rose from San Francisco district attorney to her party’s favorite to replace outgoing U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, ventured that “our policy should not be informed by our collective outrage about one man’s conduct,” as ABC News reported. “Many other San Francisco politicians stayed quiet as mourners held a late morning vigil at Pier 14 on the downtown waterfront[.]”

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