Francisco Sanchez, center, is lead out of the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, right, and a Spanish language interpreter (left), after his arraignment at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday. (Michael Macor/AP)
Democrats now will say anything to distance themselves from sanctuary city policies, even though they have supported these policies for years. In an exclusive CNN interview Tuesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked about San Francisco’s refusal to hand over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement seven-time convicted felon and five-time deportee Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. He stands accused in the fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle as she took an evening stroll on Pier 14 last week. (After telling a local TV station he shot Steinle by accident, Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to murder.) Clinton answered, “The city made a mistake not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported. So I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on.”
In a 2007 Democratic presidential debate, the late Tim Russert asked Clinton if she would allow sanctuary cities to disobey federal law. “Well, I don’t think there is any choice,” she answered. Immigrants may not talk to police if “they think you’re also going to be enforcing the immigration laws.” She did not add a caveat that she wanted local law enforcement to work with immigration officials if the federal government had strong feelings that an individual should be deported.
In 2008, Clinton voted against an amendment to yank some federal funds from sanctuary cities. California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer voted likewise — but it didn’t stop them from criticizing San Francisco for releasing a repeat offender.
“The 2008 budget amendment was a choice between sending a political message or funding California law enforcement, and I chose to fund the police,” Feinstein explained in an e-mail. “I continue to believe we can deport criminals who are undocumented and still support law enforcement.”
Perhaps Feinstein and Clinton are living back in 1985, when Feinstein was mayor and signed San Francisco’s sanctuary city law. It was supposed to help immigrants seeking asylum from war-torn El Salvador and Guatemala. Four years later, the law was expanded to cover all immigrants. Then, in 2013, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance, signed by Mayor Ed Lee, that prohibits city law enforcement from releasing undocumented immigrants to ICE based on a detainer request alone. (There’s an exception for recent violent felons, but Lopez-Sanchez did not qualify.)
Sanctuary City supporters cannot say they were not warned. Recently, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña told a House committeethat reduced cooperation from state and local governments “may increase the risk that dangerous criminals are returned to the streets, putting the public and our officers at greater risk.”
Rep. Rick Mulvaney, R-S.C., asked Saldaña if it would help if Congress made it mandatory for local governments to cooperate with ICE — the sort of bill already rejected by Clinton, Feinstein and Boxer. “Thank you. Amen. Yes,” Saldaña answered.
Then came blowback from the antienforcement community. Saldaña released a statement that said such a law would be counterproductive and “lead to more resistance.” You have to figure her reversal was on orders from the White House. Asked about Steinle’s killing at a press conference this week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest blamed Republicans in Congress for blocking “common-sense immigration reform.”
Where is the common sense in shielding repeat felons and border jumpers from the consequences of their crimes? There is no need to look outside the city: San Francisco screwed up. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Board of Supervisors and the mayor were so busy crowing about their pro-immigrant credentials, and refusing to differentiate between legal and undocumented, that they forgot voters elect them to keep this city safe.