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OTR Interviews

Debate: A sanctuary city - but for whom and at what cost?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Sanctuary cities under fire today on Capitol Hill. The House of Representatives just a short time ago, passing a bill to strip federal funds from all sanctuary cities. Now, the huge move coming after tensions boiled over at a dramatic congressional hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY GOWDY, SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSMAN: The definition of sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. It almost sounds as utopian, a place of refuge, a place of safety. Refuge for whom? Safety for whom? For a young woman walking on a pier with her father? We are given a litany of excuses for policies like this. We are told that we need policies like the one in San Francisco, so people will cooperate with law enforcement. And I want you to consider how utterly illogical that is we are releasing known criminals back into society, so society will help us catch known criminals. So are we supposed to catch him again after San Francisco releases him? Do we wait on another victim? Is that the strategy behind sanctuary cities, release him, and wait until they hurt someone else? Is that what we mean by coming forward?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: And also, in that hearing, the father of Kate Steinle, a young woman shot and killed by an illegal immigrant delivering a dramatic testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM STEINLE, FATHER OF KATE STEINLE: The day she was killed, we were walking arm and arm on Pier 14 in San Francisco, enjoying a wonderful day together. Suddenly, a shot rang out, Kate fell, looked at me and said, help me dad. Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter.

It's unbelievable to see so many innocent Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrant felons in recent years. Our family realizes the complexities of immigration laws. However, we feel strongly that some legislation should be discussed, enacted, or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good. We feel that if Kate's law saves one daughter, one son, a father or mother, Kate's death won't be in vain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Trey Gowdy, chairman of the subcommittee that held today's hearing went On The Record about sanctuary cities.

Congressman, nice to see you.

GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. At a hearing today on sanctuary cities, what is a sanctuary city?

GOWDY: A sanctuary city right now is a place where folks who are not supposed to be here, even with misdemeanor and felony convictions can go and be guaranteed they won't be deported. For the sanctuary city ought to be is any American city where a law-abiding person like Kate Steinle would be safe. But right now, the only people safe in sanctuary cities are folks in violation of our immigration laws.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. You mentioned Kate Steinle, the man who is sitting in jail right now for her murder deported a number of times and kept coming back in the country, the sheriff said when he released him that he had no authority to hold him anymore because the federal charges were over. And also, he had no state charges. So he let him go. I said we had a detainer on him, the sheriff says the detainer not enough to hold anybody.

GOWDY: It is in most jurisdictions and it was for the entire Bush administration. But let's back up one second. What was he taken San Francisco for? An old drug case. Drugs may not still be illegal in San Francisco, I don't know. But heavens know, they are not going to prosecute an old drug case, so they had a warrant. Why not -- they wound up dismissing the warrant, Greta. Why not dismiss it when he is in the Bureau of Prisons. You don't have to have a defendant in front of you to dismiss a warrant. So my frustration is the Bureau of Prisons should have never released him to the City of San Francisco, knowing that after this case -- let's assume he pled. He pled guilty to this piddle drug case. He then would have been released. Why would you release someone who has been convicted of unlawful entry five times? Why would you release that person to a known sanctuary city?

VAN SUSTEREN: But why not blame ICE for not following the case and the minute the case was dropped in the state court, when the sheriff had custody, ICE should have been standing right there grabbing him.

GOWDY: I did blame them a little bit today for not getting a warrant. A detainer is great. There is debate over whether or not that's legally sufficient. A warrant, nobody debates. So why didn't ICE go get a warrant?

VAN SUSTEREN: Did they have the authority to get a warrant?

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: Of course, they did. They had probable cause.

VAN SUSTEREN: For what? That the minute the sheriff let go of him and he walked outside, he was there illegally?

GOWDY: Well, he was there illegally, absolutely. Yes. Either deport him or probable cause for an arrest, not a detainer, an arrest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't this whole business of sanctuary cities something though that the federal government could resolve? I mean, the federal government could streamline immigration, properly fund it, give very specific directions to these local communities, and make sure they follow them? Isn't the problem sort of the patchwork effort to deal with illegal immigration in this country?

GOWDY: That's part of it. I think the biggest issue is because we have not had what the president calls Comprehensive Immigration Reform that he is going to inject reform in certain pockets or pieces. He has just picked lots of the wrong pockets and pieces. I mean, one of the questions I had today for the hearing is of the 11 million, what percentage have committed either felonies or serious misdemeanors? All right. Let's assume it's 500,000. That's low, but let's assume that. What is your plan for identifying those 500,000? Because right now, the president's plan is to wait for them to re-offend. I mean, Juan Francisco Sanchez Lopez is going to be in prison for the rest of his life. The question is how do you catch folks like that before they kill Kate Steinle's?

Whether it's the Bureau of Prisons or the City of San Francisco or ICE, there is enough blame to go around. But it's too late to help her. Until you can look your fellow citizens in the eye and say the borders, plural, are secure, and our internal security is good, and we're going to catch people who are known criminals that have overstayed their Visas before they commit another offense, you are not going to get to the 11 million. You are not going to get to the Work Visas. You are not going to get to the agricultural piece. People want security first. And the president has been remarkably silent on that issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, we all know it's going to take a number of more Kate Steinle's before we will get some solution out of the federal government.

GOWDY: It depends. It depends on how outraged our fellow citizens are because I can tell you this. The president said that he saw Trayvon -- in Trayvon Martin, he saw a son. Well, I can tell you those of us have daughters saw our daughter in Kate Steinle. He has got two of them, too. So at a minimum, he ought to pick up the phone and tell the Steinle family that I grieve for you. And you do it privately. I don't care what he says. But that would be a nice thing to do.

And then, secondarily, to understand the primary focus of government is public safety. Way more than winning elections and appealing to certain constituencies, it is public safety. And it wouldn't take much to secure the border, secure the internal, make detainers mandatory. Make them mandatory like they were during the Bush administration. She would still be alive if we had done that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

GOWDY: Yes, ma'am.