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San Francisco’s Immigrant Sanctuary Status Reaffirmed

FILE - The case of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, charged with the murder of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, has escalated tensions over San Francisco's status as a sanctuary city. Supervisors reaffirmed their support for the status on Tuesday.

San Francisco supervisors vigorously reaffirmed the city's status as a sanctuary city, nearly four months after a 32-year-old woman was killed by a Mexican national who had been released from jail despite federal requests to detain him for deportation proceedings.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution urging the sheriff not to participate in a detainer-notification system that asks jails to let Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials know when an inmate of interest is being released.

The actions sent a strong but symbolic message to critics who had lambasted the city after a Mexican national fatally shot Kate Steinle on a city pier July 1.

Steinle’s death cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the city that proudly declares itself a refuge for immigrants. As outrage mounted nationally, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, criticized the sheriff, saying suspect Juan Francisco Sanchez-Lopez should have been detained.

Suspect claims shooting was accidental

Sanchez-Lopez says he found the gun under a bench on the pier, and it accidently fired when he picked it up.

"All of us in this room agree that the death of Kathryn Steinle was senseless and tragic, but what many of us disagree on is the role – if any – that San Francisco's existing sanctuary and due process for all" ordinance played in the event, Supervisor Malia Cohen said.

Supervisors said they wouldn't let hateful commentary undermine a long-standing policy that improves public safety and embraces immigrants.

"I'm so proud of San Francisco," Supervisor David Campos, who co-sponsored the nonbinding resolution, said after the vote. He characterized it as overcoming "the climate at the national level of scapegoating immigrants."

Immigrant protections, public safety

Roy Beck, director of NumbersUSA, which calls for limiting immigration, said it's frightening that supervisors sided with illegal immigrants – even violent ones – rather than public safety.

San Francisco declared itself a sanctuary city in 1989, passing an ordinance that bans city officials from enforcing immigration laws or asking about immigration status unless required by law or court order.

Supervisors on Tuesday tabled another resolution urging the sheriff to revoke a department-wide memo prohibiting communication between his staff and federal immigration authorities.

Earlier in the day, Senate Democrats in Washington blocked legislation pushed largely by Republicans that would punish jurisdictions that don't cooperate with federal immigration agents.