Declaring itself a sanctuary with no obligation to obey federal immigration law, the city of San Francisco ignored an order by federal immigration officials to detain for deportation a man now accused of gunning down a young woman at popular city tourist destination.
Francisco Sanchez has seven felony convictions and has been deported five times, most recently in 2009, a federal agency said Friday. He was arrested about an hour after Wednesday’s seemingly random slaying of Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 — one of the busiest attractions in the city.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had turned Sanchez over to San Francisco police March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant, said agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice. ICE issued a detainer for Sanchez in March. She said the detainer was not honored.
Freya Horne, counsel for the sheriff’s office, said Friday that federal detention orders are not a “legal basis” to hold someone, so Sanchez was released April 15. San Francisco is a sanctuary city and local money cannot be spent to cooperate with federal immigration law.
The city does not turn over people who are in the country illegally unless there’s an active warrant for their arrest, she said. Horne said they checked and found none. ICE could have issued an active warrant if they wanted the city to keep him, she said.
“It’s not legal to hold someone on a request to detain. This is not just us. This is a widely adopted position,” she said.
Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll with her father along the waterfront. Police said witnesses heard no argument or dispute before the shooting, suggesting it was a random attack.