Sen. Dianne Feinstein blasted the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday for releasing an illegal immigrant with a felony record, saying the woman he shot last week would still be alive if the department had notified federal immigration authorities.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had been deported five times, was freed in March even though Immigration and Custom Enforcement had filed a detainer request with the department.
He admitted Sunday to shooting and killing Kathryn Steinle, 32, but said it was an accident.
“The tragic death of Ms. Steinle could have been avoided if the Sheriff’s Department had notified ICE prior to the release of Mr. Sanchez, which would have allowed ICE to remove him from the country,” Ms. Feinstein said in a letter to San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee.
The sheriff’s department has said that Lopez-Sanchez was released because ICE failed to produce an arrest warrant or judicial determination as required under San Francisco’s sanctuary city rules.
“I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released,” Ms. Feinstein said. “We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am looking at whether additional federal legislation may be necessary.”
Ms. Feinstein, a California Democrat who previously served as San Francisco mayor, urged the city to join the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program, which “facilitates the removal of dangerous criminal aliens.”
The program, created as part of President Obama’s executive action on immigration in November, “enables DHS to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before those individuals are released into our communities,” according to the ICE description.
“By agreeing to participate in the Priority Enforcement Program, San Francisco would provide notice to ICE before releasing aliens with long criminal records, such as Mr. Sanchez, upon request from ICE,” Ms. Feinstein said.
Lopez-Sanchez was charged Monday with murder in the death of Ms. Steinle, who was walking on San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father when she was shot.
He told KGO-TV in a jailhouse interview that he shot her accidentally when a gun he found wrapped in a T-shirt went off, and that he cannot remember the details because he had taken sleeping pills.