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Sanctuary City: Criminals Welcome

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last June, when he said he was running as a Republican for president, billionaire Donald Trump famously called out Mexico for sending "people that have lots of problems" across the border. Quoth the Donald: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Many were offended to hear Trump equate undocumented immigrants with dangerous criminals.


Yet the same thing is happening on the Left Coast. Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a measure to reinforce a sanctuary city policy -- named "Due Process for All" and passed in 2013. On KQED's "Forum" on Monday, Supervisor John Avalos talked about the ordinance as protecting the undocumented immigrant community, when in fact the policy shields undocumented immigrants with serious criminal records. Like Trump, Avalos can't distinguish between undocumented and felonious.

The 2013 measure in question directed local law enforcement not to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the pending release of undocumented inmates from custody -- unless they committed a violent felony within the past seven years.

That policy shielded Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national with seven felony convictions who had been deported five times. Rather than notify ICE, former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi released Lopez-Sanchez, who later was charged in the July 1 murder of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman taking an evening stroll with her father on Pier 14. (Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty.) Because the shooting was so avoidable, it became a national story.


Steinle was not the first casualty of the city's sanctuary policies.

In 2008, Edwin Ramos, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, shot and killed Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16. A sanctuary city policy for minors, it turns out, had shielded Ramos from ICE after he was charged with gang-related assault in 2003 and attempted robbery in 2004.

In 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom ended the ill-considered policy after The San Francisco Chronicle reported on its unintended effects. After Steinle's murder last year, however, City Hall dug in its heels and the board of supervisors refused to pass sensible fixes.

This year, however, newly elected Sheriff Vicki Hennessy tried to reform the policy by allowing deputies to inform ICE prior to the release of serious criminals -- those convicted of violent felonies within the last seven years (absent incarceration time), or three felony convictions from three separate incidents or two or more felony convictions for re-entering the United States after deportation. Two felony re-entries, not one? Three separate felonies? I say Hennessy is too easy. Avalos accused her of creating "a very wide funnel."


I asked Avalos if he thought people have a right to break immigration law. He answered, "The U.S. breaks international law all the time." He's angry at calls to reform the policy because of one "tragic" crime. Wrong. Steinle is not the first casualty of sanctuary city policies that protect repeat criminals. The Bolognas were. And if City Hall wants to provide shield violent offenders who otherwise would be deported, there will be more.

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