A California lawmaker is making the first move to crack down on sanctuary city policies in San Francisco and the rest of the state after a young woman was murdered, allegedly by an illegal immigrant freed by the city just months earlier.
State Sen. Jeff Stone, a Republican, announced Tuesday he is drafting a bill that would require all California cities and counties to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.
"The murder of this woman may have been prevented had there been a state law in place to prohibit so-called Sanctuary Cities, like San Francisco, from releasing previously convicted felons who are in the United States illegally," Stone said in a statement.
Authorities earlier charged 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez with the murder of Kathryn Steinle, 32, last week.
According to federal immigration officials, Sanchez already has been deported five times and has a lengthy felony criminal record. But after serving his most recent sentence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement turned him over to San Francisco in March on an outstanding warrant -- and the city released him weeks later without notifying the feds.
The city has argued it had no grounds on which to hold him.
But Stone said no city should be "above the law," and that, "This loss of life very well could have been prevented had the City of San Francisco done what should have been done and not disregarded existing federal laws. San Francisco's failure ultimately resulted in her murder."
Stone has submitted legislation that, according to his office, would require prisoners in city custody identified as illegal immigrants by the feds to be held for 48 hours, to give ICE the chance to take action.
Draft legislation was submitted Tuesday morning to Legislative Counsel, after which it is expected to be formally introduced.
San Francisco is one of nearly two-dozen cities, counties and communities in the state that have so-called sanctuary city policies, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
As such, these local jurisdictions place limits on their cooperation with federal immigration officials. In San Francisco, the policy bars the use of city resources to enforce federal immigration law except in certain circumstances. But the entire state of California also operates under the TRUST Act, which went into effect in 2014 and effectively allows illegal immigrants charged with minor crimes to be released after posting bail or serving time.
In the case of Sanchez, ICE had requested they be notified when Sanchez was about to be released. According to the agency, this never happened.
ICE has since blasted local officials for ignoring the immigration detainer.
"ICE places detainers on aliens arrested on criminal charges to ensure dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails into our communities," an ICE spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that if local officials had notified ICE about the release in April, "ICE could have taken custody of him and had him removed from the country -- thus preventing this terrible tragedy."
Critics of sanctuary city policies have pointed to the San Francisco case in arguing these policies endanger public welfare.
But Freya Horne, an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, told the Associated Press on Friday they had no authority to hold him, and a federal detention order does not count as a "legal basis" to hold someone.