An illegal alien who shot a woman in broad daylight in San Francisco on Wednesday had been deported five times but was released back onto the streets anyway, federal immigration officials are saying.
The alleged killer, 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez, shot 32-year-old Kate Steinle as she was walking with her father and a friend on San Francisco’s famous Pier 14.
Authorities say Sanchez fired a bullet that struck Steinle in the chest. She died two hours later. Police do not yet know the motive for the shooting.
Sanchez was recently in police custody but was allowed to go free rather than face his sixth deportation because San Francisco is a so-called “sanctuary city.” That means that city institutions do not enforce federal immigration laws.
Picked up for a drug charge, Sanchez was released by the San Francisco sheriff’s department on March 26.
In releasing Sanchez, who was deported most recently in 2009, local authorities ignored U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s request that a “detainer” be placed on him. That despite him having seven felonies on his record.
“The detainer was not honored,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said, according to USA Today.
“ICE places detainers on aliens arrested on criminal charges to ensure dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails into our communities,” she added.
It is unclear what rationale San Francisco authorities used to determine Sanchez’s priority level. In November, the Obama administration revamped its immigration enforcement policies by creating three different immigration enforcement priority levels.
The highest priority offenders include illegal aliens who pose a national security threat, are apprehended at the border, are in a street gang, or have been convicted of a felony.
The second-highest priority group includes aliens who have three or more misdemeanors on their record, a “significant misdemeanor,” or those who are apprehended after unlawfully entering or re-entering the U.S. The lowest priority group is for aliens who have been issued a final order for removal.
As USA Today notes, the California state assembly passed a law in 2013 that allows local law enforcement agencies discretion on when to fulfill ICE detainer requests.
Kamala Harris, the state’s attorney general, supports the liberal interpretation of immigration policy.
“When local law enforcement officials are seen as de facto immigration enforcers, it erodes the trust between our peace officers and the communities they serve,” Harris wrote last year. She is currently running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer.