- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2015

The Democratic campaign to relax national, state and local deportation policies is fueling outrage ignited by the shocking slaying of a woman in San Francisco by an oft-deported illegal immigrant with seven felony convictions.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte slammed the Obama administration for turning federal requests to detain illegal immigrants into “something voluntary” and “releasing criminals back onto the streets.”

“This administration is not enforcing our immigration laws,” the Virginia Republican said. “And, quite frankly, I don’t think they care.”

He cited last week’s arrest of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, 45, who has confessed to shooting and killing Kathryn Steinle, 32, as she walked with her father along Pier 14. Lopez-Sanchez, who told KGO-TV that the shooting was an accident, has seven prior felony convictions and has been deported five times.

Lopez-Sanchez was charged with murder Monday evening.

“This tragedy in San Francisco — which is repeated every day around the country but doesn’t get this kind of notoriety — is a product of that lack of caring about the rule of law,” Mr. Goodlatte said.


SEE ALSO: California Congressional Dems had urged Jerry Brown to sign 2013 anti-deportation bill


Meanwhile, the White House moved to shift the blame to Republicans by faulting them for opposing Democrat-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which GOP lawmakers have dismissed as an amnesty program.

“The president has done everything within his power to make sure that we’re focusing our law enforcement resources on criminals and those who pose a threat to public safety,” Mr. Earnest said. “It’s because of the political efforts of Republicans that we have not been able to make the kind of investment that we would like to make in securing our border and keeping our communities safe.”

That statement drew hoots from critics who pointed to the Obama administration’s decision in November to drop the 2008 Secure Communities program, installed by the Bush administration to enhance cooperation with state and local law enforcement on removing illegal aliens.

“What you see right now is a Department of Homeland Security that’s been intentionally isolated, not just from state and local agencies, but also from other federal agencies in what is an overt and malicious effort to jeopardize public safety and security in a quest to try to lock up the Latino vote for the next 50 years,” said Dan Stein, president of the anti-amnesty Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Social media was abuzz with criticism over the shooting. Said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, on Twitter: “Another American killed by sanctuary city policies shielding illegal aliens from deportation.”

Democrats and pro-immigrant groups have emphasized in recent years deportation policies focused on illegal aliens with criminal records, arguing that resources are better spent on violent offenders than those with no prior arrests or convictions on minor offenses.

But a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said the removal of convicted criminal illegal aliens has been cut in half since 2011, thanks to a lengthy series of moves to weaken immigration enforcement.

“The administration’s relentless determination to strip away America’s immigration laws [has] resulted in thousands of preventable crimes,” spokesman Stephen Miller said.

Mr. Stein also was unimpressed.

“You couldn’t name a single thing this administration has done to try to increase immigration law enforcement,” he said. “The whole administrative amnesty is built on the charade that resource reasons require that they focus solely on criminal aliens.”

Nowhere has that policy been more evident than in California. In October 2013 California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring law enforcement to turn away detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement involving nonfelons.

The bill was signed by Mr. Brown after a previous veto and repeated pressure from California’s Democratic lawmakers in Washington, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. Brown signed Assembly Bill 4, known as the TRUST Act, following an August letter from Mrs. Pelosi and 27 other House Democrats from California urging him to “limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement.”

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, allows California to avoid turning over illegal immigrants under the federal Secure Communities program unless they have committed serious crimes. In November the Obama administration discontinued the program, launched by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Mr. Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2012, but signed A.B. 4 after it was expanded to allow local law enforcement to honor detainer holds for those charged with felonies, not just those convicted. Mrs. Pelosi and more than 20 other U.S. House Democrats from California had also urged him in another letter to sign the 2012 bill.

Separately, the San Francisco board of supervisors approved an ordinance in Sept. 2013 stopping law enforcement from complying with ICE detainers unless the person in custody has a conviction for a violent crime such as murder, sexual assault, trafficking or assault with a deadly weapon.

The result is that 10,156 federal detention requests were declined in California alone from Jan. 10, 2014, to June 19, 2015, or about 59 percent of declined detainers nationally, said Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez.

Supporters of the “no-hold” policy say it encourages illegal aliens to interact with police, but even the ACLU of Northern California was puzzled by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department decision to release Lopez-Sanchez, calling the move a “tragic anomaly.”

“It is still unclear why the federal government turned over someone who is known to be deportable to the city of San Francisco, knowing that San Francisco is one of the oldest sanctuary cities in the country,” said the ACLU-NC statement.

The sheriff’s office said prosecutors had declined to press charges against Lopez-Sanchez on a drug-related offense. Officials with ICE had requested a detainer, but they had not followed up with a warrant or judicial order.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said Monday he was “concerned” about events leading up to the felon’s release.

But the mayor defended the sanctuary city policy, saying it helped immigrants gain access to social services without “fear of their city government reporting them to federal authorities.”

San Francisco City and County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said Monday in an interview on CNN that the sanctuary city policy “makes us safer” by encouraging witnesses and crime victims in the country illegally to contact police.

“I firmly believe it makes it safer. We’re a world-renowned city with a large immigrant population. And of that population is a population that is also here undocumented,” he said. “From a law enforcement perspective, we want to build trust with that population. And our sanctuary city and other attendant laws have allowed us to do that.”

Billionaire Donald Trump, who came under fire last month for saying that some illegal immigrants are “rapists,” said Monday that Mexico shares in the blame for sending criminals over the border.

“The government of Mexico — look, this other guy that killed the young woman in San Francisco, they threw him out. They’re pushing the bad ones in here,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump is so far the only Republican presidential candidate to comment publicly on the San Francisco slaying.

“It’s such a sad thing, and this is a guy that should have stayed in Mexico. He should not have been allowed in our country and, because of the weak borders, we have him here,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s an example of how disgraceful it is. He should have been in Mexico. He shouldn’t have been in our country.”

In November President Obama argued that deportations of criminals are up to 80 percent in the last six years, but others dispute the figure, saying that the Obama administration has inflated its numbers by including those turned away at the border.

“The Bush administration did not count those as deportations, they simply apprehend them at the border, sent them back into Mexico the next day — that didn’t count as deportation,” Mr. Goodlatte said. “The Obama administration has started counting those, and that has driven those numbers up, but the actual deportations from the interior of the country are way down.”

Mr. Stein said the “no-hold” or “catch-and-release” policies are part of a larger Democratic plan to blur the distinction between citizens and noncitizens, eventually resulting in those without citizen status being able to vote.

“The sanctuary city concept has become a microcosm for what the Democrats are seeking now universally, which is virtually no immigration enforcement anywhere and eliminating the distinction between citizens and aliens,” Mr. Stein said.

“Many of them want voting for noncitizens,” he said. “There is an agenda that is very broad. And for some reason or another, it has not been getting much attention. But folks need to pay attention.”

Maggie Ybarra and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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