San Francisco’s progressive sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, issued a memo in March barring deputies from communicating with federal immigration agents, the sheriff’s deputy’s union revealed earlier this week.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mirkarimi issued the memo on March 13, about a month before the sheriff’s department released Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal alien from Mexico who has used more than 30 aliases since first entering the U.S. in 1991 and has been deported five times.
Lopez-Sanchez, 45, allegedly fatally shot 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in broad daylight July 1. Lopez-Sanchez was in federal prison until March 26. At that point, he was turned over to the San Francisco sheriff’s department because he had an outstanding marijuana warrant from 1995.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had issued a detainer request to the sheriff’s department asking to be notified before Lopez-Sanchez’s release. The sheriff’s department declined to honor that request because of San Francisco’s sanctuary city laws.
But Mirkarimi’s March 13 memo went even beyond the city’s statute.
In it, Mirkarimi called for “limited contact and communication with ICE representatives absent a court-issued warrant, a signed court order, or other legal requirement authorizing ICE access.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, Mirkarimi’s directive was stricter than the city’s 2013 Due Process for All ordinance. That prohibited sheriff’s deputies from holding illegal aliens in jail on behalf of federal immigration agencies past their official release date except in cases involving certain felons. Mirkarimi memo prohibited deputies from communicating to ICE that the department would not hold Lopez-Sanchez.
The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association called on Mirkarimi to rescind the memo saying that it “recklessly compromises the safety of sworn personnel, citizens, and those who merely come to visit the San Francisco area.
The union’s attorney, Peter Hoffman, told The L.A. Times that Mirkarimi’s memo “absolutely modifies” the relationship between ICE and San Francisco sheriff’s deputies. He told The Times that before the memo there had been “some level of communication” between the two agencies.
“I can tell you the sheriff did change policy effective March of this year to effectively eliminate communication with ICE altogether, and that is the change in working conditions that we’re focused on,” Hoffman said.
Mirkarimi dismissed the union’s complaint, calling it “political posturing.” The union supports Mirkarimi’s challenger in an upcoming election.
In the aftermath of Steinle’s death, Mirkarimi has sought to blame ICE. When he initially defended the city’s sanctuary city policies, he said that ICE never should not have turned Lopez-Sanchez over to his department in the first place. But it emerged shortly after that the sheriff’s department had requested that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons hand over Lopez-Sanchez because of the 1995 bench warrant for the sale of marijuana. Charges in that case were dropped against Lopez-Sanchez the next day. ICE submitted its detainer request at that point.