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Border & Immigration

San Diego County Congressman Wants To Punish 'Sanctuary' Cities

Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, speaks to General Dynamics, April 24, 2015.
Rep. Duncan Hunter's Facebook page
Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, speaks to General Dynamics, April 24, 2015.

A deportee's arrest in a Bay Area killing is behind Rep. Duncan Hunter's effort

San Diego County Congressman Wants To Punish ‘Sanctuary’ Cities
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, said he plans to introduce a bill to restrict funding for “sanctuary” cities that do not always cooperate with immigration authorities. Hunter's action is spurred by a deportee's arrest in a San Francisco killing.

San Diego County Rep. Duncan Hunter said he plans to introduce a bill to restrict funding to “sanctuary” cities that do not always cooperate with immigration authorities.

The effort by Hunter, R-Alpine, follows the fatal shooting last week of Kathryn Steinle, 32, as she walked with her father at a popular San Francisco tourist spot. Francisco Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican national, was arrested in the killing and pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. He has been deported to Mexico five times and has seven felony convictions.

RELATED: AP Source: US Agent’s Gun Used In San Francisco Pier Slaying

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department released Sanchez from jail in March despite a detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These requests ask law enforcement agencies to keep certain immigrants in custody for at least 48 hours after their scheduled release date.

Francisco Sanchez, accused in the waterfront shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, walks into court for his arraignment at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, July 7, 2015.
Associated Press
Francisco Sanchez, accused in the waterfront shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, walks into court for his arraignment at the San Francisco Hall of Justice, July 7, 2015.

San Francisco's sheriff and a rising number of law enforcement officials, especially in California, have decided not to honor detainer requests from ICE if they lack arrest warrants. That's the policy of San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, too.

Gov. Jerry Brown also signed into law in 2013 the Trust Act, which limits the ability of local law enforcement to comply with ICE detainer requests.

In a statement to Breitbart News, Hunter said, “States and cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws directly undermine enforcement efforts and — as recent events have shown — present a real danger to citizens. If a state or one of its cities wants to call itself a sanctuary and deliberately ignore the law, then Congress shouldn’t hesitate to withhold federal funding until there’s compliance.”

On Hunter's Facebook page, he linked to a story on Breitbart News, a conservative online website, and said, "Legislation I'm soon introducing..."

ICE said it has filed more than 74,000 detainer requests nationwide this year through June 27. Close to 21,000 were filed in California. Of those filed nationally, 17,193 were declined, with more than half — 10,516 — declined in California.

San Diego County Sheriff's Cmdr. John Ingrassia said that while the agency does not comply with detainer requests unless ICE files an arrest warrant for the individual, local law enforcement officers do notify immigration officials when an immigrant of interest is going to be released from jail.

“We will not delay the release of that inmate," Ingrassia said. "We will simply notify (ICE) that they are going to be released within X amount of time.”

That way, immigration officials have the option to detain priority immigrants, he said. In the case of Sanchez, San Francisco did not notify ICE of his release.

Ingrassia said the San Diego County Sheriff's Department is not expected to change its policy on detainer requests. “It seems to be an effective working relationship,” he said.

Jennie Pasquarella, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said she doesn’t think counties should have to re-evaluate their strategies of noncompliance with ICE detainer requests in light of the San Francisco killing.

“The immigration detainer request is an unconstitutional request that forms no basis for which the local law enforcement agency, in this case the San Diego sheriff, can detain somebody because it’s not supported by the requisite probable cause,” Pasquarella said.

Most detainer requests in the past few years have been for immigrants without criminal convictions or who committed minor offenses such as traffic violations, she said.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, said in a statement that she asked Brown to review state policies to ensure a killing like Steinle's doesn't happen again.

"For decades, I have supported deporting violent criminals, and I have always believed that sanctuary should not be given to felons," she said in the statement.