Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton joined the condemnation of San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policy Tuesday.
Clinton chided law enforcement officials in an interview with CNN, saying the city was wrong to ignore an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request to hold Francisco Sanchez for federal authorities. Sanchez is accused of killing a young California woman along a pier last week.
"The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported," Clinton said. "So I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on."
Clinton wasn’t the only one criticizing the city. Both of California’s senators also slammed the city’s policy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to start cooperating with federal immigration officials who want to deport felons such as Sanchez. Feinstein served as San Francisco mayor from 1978-1988.
"I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released," Feinstein said. "We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets."
The mayor’s office has said it reached out to Homeland Security officials to determine if there’s a way to cooperate while still upholding the city’s sanctuary policy.
"Mayor Lee shares the senator's concerns surrounding the nature of Mr. Sanchez's transfer to San Francisco and release," said Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor. "As the mayor has stated, we need to gather all of the facts as we develop potential solutions."
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, also a Northern California native, said she asked Gov. Jerry Brown if state law was followed in Sanchez’s release.
"For decades, I have supported deporting violent criminals, and I have always believed that sanctuary should not be given to felons," Boxer said.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi defended Sanchez’s release and the city law requiring it to ignore ICE detainer requests. The sheriff said ICE could have obtained a warrant or court order to keep Sanchez in custody.
Mirkarimi has also repeatedly backed up the city’s policy of not complying with federal requests to detain illegal immigrants for deportation.
"My long-held belief is that local law enforcement should not be in the civil immigration detainer business," San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said last year, after the policy was adopted.
Mirkarimi has also tried to push some of the blame on the agency.
“If ICE does not provide the proper legal instrument, they are jeopardizing also the city’s ability to detain somebody against their will,” he said. “We need ICE to step up. … ICE knew that he had been deported five times. You would have thought [Sanchez] met a threshold that he required a court order or a warrant. They did not do that."
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate’s homeland security committee, criticized federal officials and demanded to know why Sanchez was not deported.
"Does that make any sense to you?" Johnson demanded to know at a hearing Tuesday. "Because I'll tell you it doesn't make any sense to the American public."
California State Sen. Jeff Stone announced Tuesday he is 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.
Sanchez entered a not guilty plea Tuesday in the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, 32, last week at a popular San Francisco tourist spot Pier 14. Prosecutor Dianna Garcia argued against releasing Sanchez on bail, saying, "This was an act of random violence, shooting an innocent victim in the back."
Sanchez has already been deported five times and has a lengthy criminal background.
A downcast Sanchez spent most of the hearing with his head bowed, appearing to fight back tears while the judge explained the charged to him. Sanchez was aided by a Spanish-language interpreter and entered his plea in Spanish.
His bail was set at $5 million and could face life in prison if convicted in the murder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report