Last week, amid an already heated discussion surrounding immigration reforms in the United States, the world learned of the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant in California. Ms. Steinle, while taking a walk on a popular San Francisco pier with her father Jim Steinle, was shot and later died at an area hospital. The shooter, a Mexican national illegally living in the country named Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has been arrested and is now in prison for the crime. He has entered a plea not of guilty.
The shooting has brought San Francisco’s reputation as a “sanctuary city” to the forefront of the immigration discussion. According to an article by Michael Pearson on CNN.com entitled “What’s a ‘sanctuary city,’ and why should you care?”, there are multiple meanings for the term “sanctuary city” that vary from location to location. The most common description (since there are no legal definitions) is a place- either city, county or state- that “generally [has] policies or laws that limit the extent to which law enforcement or other government employees will go to assist the federal government on immigration matters” (Pearson, CNN.com). San Francisco is one such city that has laws and regulations that allow its employees to refuse to obey federal orders regarding immigration.
Lopez-Sanchez is no stranger to the United States justice system as he has been arrested and deported multiple times before the shooting from last week. According to an article by The Associated Press found on NBCnews.com,
Federal records show Lopez-Sanchez had been deported three times before being sentenced to about five years in federal prison in 1998. He had finished his third stint in prison for re-entering the country illegally when he was sent to San Francisco March 26 on an outstanding 1995 drug charge.
The San Francisco district attorney’s office declined to prosecute, given the age of the case and the small amount of marijuana involved (The Associated Press, nbcnews.com).
Immigration authorities had requested that Lopez-Sanchez be kept in custody for 48 hours until they were able to retrieve him to start another deportation hearing immediately following the transfer to San Francisco. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department declined the request and Lopez-Sanchez was release on April 15th. In wake of the shooting death of Ms. Steinle, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has defended the decision to release Lopez-Sanchez and decline the request to turn him over to immigration officials, citing the city’s laws and regulations.
Kathryn Steinle’s parents, Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan were recently interviewed by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and voiced their disappointment in the situation. Mr. Steinle said that they “feel that the federal, state and [city] laws are here to protect us. But we feel that this particular set of circumstances and the people involved” let them down. Mr. Steinle and Ms. Sullivan went on to say that they support a proposal that would give mandatory prison sentences to anyone who has been deported but was found to have returned to the United States illegally (The Associated Press, nbcnews.com).
The immigration debate is sure to continue to rage on as we get closer to election season with pundits on all sides eager to weigh in on the topic. We would like to know your opinion on the situation; leave a comment on the issue on our social media pages:
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