California Killing Inflames Debate On Illegal Immigrants and ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Father Cameron Faller leads a prayer vigil for shooting victim Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 6. Steinle, 32, was fatally shot as she walked with her father along the popular Embarcadero pier on July 1. (Noah Berger/Reuters)
Father Cameron Faller leads a prayer vigil for shooting victim Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 6. Steinle, 32, was fatally shot as she walked with her father along the popular Embarcadero pier on July 1. (Noah Berger/Reuters)

The shooting death of a woman along the San Francisco waterfront has inflamed the already contentious national debate over illegal immigration, with the Obama administration accusing local officials of releasing the suspected shooter in defiance of efforts to deport him.

The latest clash over the nation’s 11.3 million illegal migrants began after the death Wednesday of Kathryn Steinle, 31, who was shot in the upper torso as she walked with her father at a popular tourist destination. San Francisco police swarmed the area and arrested a man an hour later, police said.

It turned out that the suspect, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had seven felony convictions stretching back to 1991 and had been deported from the United States five times. 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, federal and local officials said.

In a strongly worded statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of DHS, said the San Francisco officials ignored ICE’s request for a heads-up before Lopez-Sanchez was let go. “As a result, an individual with a lengthy criminal history, who is now the suspect in a tragic murder case, was released onto the street rather than being turned over to ICE for deportation,’’ said Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokeswoman.

Local authorities have accused DHS of failing to respect San Francisco’s status as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants that limits their ability to cooperate. “We’re not seeking to turn over illegal immigrants to federal custody,’’ said one San Francisco law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case is unfolding.

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SOURCE: Jerry Markon 
The Washington Post