- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put the blame for the release of an illegal immigrant implicated in the July 1 murder of Kathryn Steinle on federal agencies and bad communication Wednesday, rather than on San Francisco’s sanctuary policy.

In a letter, Mrs. Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a fellow California Democrat and a leader on immigration, said the federal Bureau of Prisons‘ release of the illegal immigrant to San Francisco was the foul up — not the city’s subsequent release.

The two lawmakers said Homeland Security and the Bureau of Prisons should work out an agreement to try to communicate better with each other and with local prosecutors so they could have kept the man in federal custody, never letting him come into San Francisco’s purview.

The Steinle case has shaken the immigration debate, refocusing it away from the more sympathetic cases such as Dreamers and onto the victims of crimes.

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, the man police have accused of shooting Steinle, had been deported five times and was wanted by immigration authorities at the time of the murder. He’d been in federal custody, serving time for sneaking back into the country, but when his term was up the Bureau of Prisons shipped him to San Francisco, which wanted him on a decades-old warrant, rather than sending him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be deported again.

San Francisco authorities decided not to pursue the case, and released Sanchez, rebuking a request from ICE agents who had asked to be notified so they could pick him up again.

The two congresswomen said honoring the San Francisco warrant often makes sense because the interests of justice require the suspect to face his or her crimes, but in this case it didn’t make sense because San Francisco didn’t follow through.

“Rather, where the outstanding criminal warrant pertains to a particularly old charge not involving violence or serious damage to property — as was the case here — and the state or local prosecutor is unlikely to proceed with a prosecution, there is no purpose to be served in deferring deportation,” the congresswoman said in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Mr. Johnson himself had suggested the need for better cooperation between his department and the Bureau of Prisons — but some federal officials have said it will be difficult to deviate from the policy, which specifically places immigration detainers lower than criminal warrants from other federal, state or local police.

Mrs. Pelosi last week defended San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, which has come under fire after the Steinle killing.

Congressional Republicans are pushing legislation to punish sanctuary jurisdictions by withhold federal grant money until those communities cooperate with immigration officials.

On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and a former San Francisco mayor herself, said she’s working on similar legislation, and said city officials should have cooperated with ICE in the case of Sanchez, the suspect in the Steinle killing.

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