Several months after a shooting attack in San Francisco ignited a huge debate on how the city apprehends and detains undocumented immigrant criminals, city officials are considering an immigration measure that would effectively clarify the rules for contacting federal immigration authorities.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently voted on a proposal that requires law enforcement officials to notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only if the apprehended immigrant has a history of criminal convictions within the last 7 years.
San Francisco’s Current Immigration Position
At present, San Francisco law gives city employees some leeway to notify ICE when they encounter undocumented immigrants not in jail. Ross Mirkarimi, the city’s former sheriff, previously required federal officials to obtain a court notice or warrant to get custody of an immigrant inmate facing deportation. Employees were also forbidden from communicating with immigration authorities in any way.
The current sheriff, however, repealed this ban on communications. But the city’s Sheriff’s Department usually doesn’t collaborate with ICE.
The vote comes in the wake of the death of Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was shot while walking along a city pier by Juan Francisco Sanchez-Lopez, a Mexican undocumented immigrant facing drug offenses. The shooter was later found to have been released from jail, this despite a request by federal authorities to detain him while waiting for deportation.
Needless to say, city officials faced severe backlash for this turn of events.
Republican reaction was not unexpected either. Conservative lawmakers, who have had a traditionally touch stance on immigration law, sought to punish San Francisco and other cities that refuse to heed federal immigration requests, also known as detainers.
Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein have even crossed party lines, criticizing Mirkarimi for failing to detain Sanchez-Lopez, a known repeated drug offender.
Proponents and Critic Views
According to Supervisor John Avalos, a longtime advocate of immigration rights and the ordinance’s chief sponsor, the proposal reiterates the message to immigrants that they won’t face deportation for cooperating with the cops and reporting crimes, adding that there has to be a clear separation.
On the other hand, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who became sheriff in January this year, opposes the proposal, pointing out that she should have discretion over when to talk to the feds. She adds that as an elected officer, she is not obliged to obey board orders.
Under the proposed rule, Steinle’s accused shooter would have been released for jail. But under the new sheriff’s supervision, it remains unclear what would have happened to Sanchez-Lopez. Hennessy, however, said he would have been looked at very closely.
To learn more about how sanctuary cities work and what rights are afforded to immigrants, talk to the immigration law experts of Lyttle Law Firm today. Call us today at (512) 215.5225 to book a consult.