Family of slain San Francisco woman push for immigration reform

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2015 12:14 PM

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A man whose adult daughter was shot dead in San Francisco by a convicted felon who was in the country illegally urged U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to reform immigration laws and crack down on local policies intended to protect undocumented immigrants.

Jim Steinle testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington about the July 1 killing of his 32-year-old daughter, Kathryn Steinle. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a convicted felon who had been deported to Mexico five times, is charged in her murder.

"Due to disjointed laws and basic incompetence on many levels, the U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter," Steinle told the panel.

"Legislation should be discussed, enacted or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good," he added.

Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Steinle's death. The shooting highlighted a longstanding "sanctuary city" policy in San Francisco, one of several hundred U.S. municipalities that limit assistance to federal immigration authorities.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican committee chairman, excoriated those policies, saying they have released thousands of criminals back into communities.

He said he would introduce a bill on Tuesday requiring state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities on criminal undocumented immigrants, under the threat of withheld federal funding.

Sanctuary city policies were rooted in shielding Central and South American refugees from deportation in the 1980s, and court rulings have since cast doubt on whether detention requests from immigration officials without a formal court order are a legal basis for extended detention.

Sanchez had a lengthy criminal record and had been deported from the United States to Mexico five times, authorities said.

Officials said Sanchez was released from federal prison in March after a felony conviction for re-entering the United States illegally. He was transferred to the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department on a drug arrest warrant and federal officials had asked to be notified before his release.

The sheriff's department said since the charges were dismissed and there was no active warrant or judicial order for Sanchez's removal, the city's policy deemed him "ineligible for extended detention" and he was freed.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Doina Chiacu)