San Francisco Supervisor David Campos plans to introduce a package of legislation today that he says is meant to address policy flaws exposed in the aftermath of the Pier 14 shooting. The Mission District supervisor will also introduce a resolution calling on the sheriff to not cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP).
The fatal shooting of Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14 on July 1 touched off a national controversy over the city’s long-established policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was deported from the U.S. five times prior to being transferred to San Francisco, faces murder charges in the shooting. Steinle’s family is pursuing legal claims against local and federal agencies for negligence that contributed to her death.
“I think … we need a well-thought-out policy that actually tries to address what happened, but also ensures that we remain safe and also that whatever we do is consistent with the values that San Francisco had,” Campos said in an interview.
Sheriff Urged to Not Cooperate with ICE
The first piece of Campos’ three-part proposal is a resolution asking the sheriff to not cooperate with PEP.
“PEP … is essentially the so-called S-Comm, Secure Communities program, with a different branding,” said Campos, who is working in tandem with a coalition of immigrant rights activists.
“It’s the federal government having basically put lipstick on a pig that is still a pig. PEP, like Secure Communities, is a dragnet program that essentially tries to entangle local law enforcement into immigration enforcement,” he added.
PEP was rolled out last year to replace the controversial, now-defunct Secure Communities program, which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted not to adhere to. Under PEP, federal immigration authorities call upon local agencies to notify ICE prior to releasing certain individuals from custody.
Campos isn’t alone in calling for the city not to adhere to PEP — the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee endorsed a resolution last week urging the city not to participate in the new federal program.
“We believe that if the Democratic Party can take that position in San Francisco, then the city and county of San Francisco should follow,” Campos said.
Another piece of the three-part proposal would require off-duty public safety officers to secure their department-issued firearms in a trunk or lock box, as a theft-prevention measure. The gun allegedly used in the Pier 14 shooting had been taken from a federal agent’s parked car.
According to a lawsuit filed by Steinle’s family, a Bureau of Land Management agent left his a fully loaded Sig Sauer handgun in his vehicle “unattended in a backpack that was in plain sight” prior to the theft, in contradiction of “mandatory regulations and procedures” requiring the weapon to be secured.
Campos’ legislative aide, Hillary Ronen, explained in an interview that the city attorney’s office had confirmed that for San Francisco law enforcement agencies, “this policy does not already exist.”
As the Center for Investigative Reporting has noted, a 2010 audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security highlighted a pervasive problem stemming from stolen government-owned firearms. A total of 289 guns were lost or stolen from the Department of Homeland Security over the course of two years, and auditors found the trend represented “serious risks to the public and law enforcement officers.”
New Policy on Inmate Transfers
A separate resolution proposed by Campos, created in tandem with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, would establish new criteria for the transfer of inmates to city custody from outside jurisdictions.
Lopez-Sanchez, the Mexican national accused of killing Steinle, was transferred from a federal prison to city custody after a bench warrant surfaced on a 20-year marijuana charge.
“He went to court on March 27, and the court dismissed the charges,” Freya Horne, chief legal counsel for the Sheriff’s Department, told KQED in an email earlier this year. From there he was released from custody and essentially left to wander the streets, penniless.
Under the proposed resolution, the district attorney would be required to communicate with local law enforcement agencies prior to an inmate transfer from an outside jurisdiction. Before agreeing to it, departments would have to determine that such a transfer “serves the interest of public safety and the efficient use of local resources.”
Calls to the district attorney’s office were not returned by press time.
“If the sheriff had called the DA,” Campos said, “the DA would have said to the sheriff, we’re not interested.”
Sanctuary City Questioned
During a visit to San Francisco on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson criticized the city’s policies of not cooperating with ICE. During an appearance at the Commonwealth Club, he labeled the practice “counterproductive” and “not acceptable.”
A number of politicians have criticized San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies following the Pier 14 shooting. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted that Steinle was “viciously killed because we can’t secure our border,” a statement that was retweeted almost 1,500 times.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, pointed a finger at San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in the wake of the shooting, blaming him for releasing an undocumented immigrant with a record of felony convictions. Mirkarimi has defended his actions as being in accordance with the city’s Due Process For All Ordinance.
Mayor Ed Lee also condemned Mirkarimi’s actions, saying on KQED’s Forum, “I do happen to agree with Sen. Feinstein that you look at who had that last responsibility. It was our sheriff. … And when the feds released this person to us, there could have been a notification that we’re about to release a repeat serious felony offender, who is not legally here.”
Requests for comment from Lee were not returned by press time.
In an internal memo circulated March 13, Mirkarimi stated that the department’s policy was to limit “contact and communication with ICE representatives absent a court issued warrant, a signed court order, or other legal requirement authorizing ICE access.”
In July, Supervisor Mark Farrell proposed a resolution calling on the sheriff to rescind that memo, which he believes goes beyond the parameters of the Sanctuary City and Due Process for All ordinances.
“We have no issue with the idea that the memo would be rescinded,” Campos said. Farrell’s proposal may come up for a vote later this month.
Farrell is also working with the city attorney on a policy that would “disallow city dollars from being expended by the sheriff’s department to transfer an inmate from outside city borders” when it’s believed that the DA will not prosecute an outstanding warrant, according to Farrell’s legislative aide, Jess Montejano. As things stand, Montejano added, Farrell “remains opposed to the whole sell of PEP at this time.”
Campos argued that the city’s existing immigration policies contribute to public safety. If undocumented residents “are victims of a crime or are witnesses to a crime, you want them to come forward and report that crime to the police department, to law enforcement,” he said. “They’re not going to do that, though, if they fear that law enforcement will deport them or report them to immigration.”
Advocates point to the case of Norma Ortiz, a San Francisco resident who dialed 911 in 2010 after suffering from a long pattern of domestic violence and was sent to deportation proceedings after being taken into police custody.
“The worst thing that I ever could have imagined was that they would take me, too,” she said. That’s just what happened, since the father of her son told police that she had started their altercation.
Ortiz was sent to an ICE facility in San Francisco, where chains were placed on her hands and feet. Then she was made to wear an ankle bracelet with a tracking device while deportation proceedings continued. In February of 2012, a federal immigration judge terminated the deportation proceeding.
“We want to be able to tell domestic violence victims, you can safely cooperate with police,” said Frances Kreimer, an immigration attorney with Dolores Street Community Services, but that won’t happen unless “people understand that local law enforcement is separate from federal immigration enforcement.”