Commentary: The Immigration Issue Is Only One Factor Among Many in SF Tragedy

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Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton, in “Safety about more than securing borders,” gets a lot right, although I do not agree with his view on Prop. 47 – ultimately, I think, the tragic killing of Kathryn Steinle has gotten bogged down in discussions of immigration politics, to its detriment.

The key points made by Marcos Breton include the following:

First, “There is no talking reasonably about anything involving undocumented immigrants when too many people would rather ape Donald Trump and scream about the border.”

Second, “The federal government spends $18 billion per year on immigration enforcement, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a 50 percent drop of immigrants crossing our border from Mexico since 2009.”

Third, “The levels of Border Patrol agents have surged since 9/11. The border is militarized in many sections, but to completely seal off a 2,000-mile expanse would cost an additional $28 billion per year, according to a study by Bloomberg Government.” To put that in perspective, that is roughly the Department Justice’s annual budget.

Fourth, “The use of this tragic case to stoke the immigration ‘debate’ is preposterous, since neither Republicans nor Democrats would ever spend another $28 billion annually on securing the U.S.-Mexico border. And it’s not a debate. It’s a sideshow that comes along every few years without fail.”

Fifth, “Any reasonable person would come to the conclusion that the suspect in Pier 14 killing, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, shouldn’t have been in this country after being deported five previous times. No one wants people like that – whether documented or undocumented – on our streets.”

For those who want to put this on San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Mr. Breton cites Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones – “no softie on crime, immigration or anything else.”

And yet, Mr. Breton reports, Sheriff Jones said on Tuesday, “If that guy had come up for release in my jail, I would not have held that guy one minute longer than I had to.”

Mr. Breton notes that, in 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, limiting the state’s cooperation on immigration with federal authorities. Governor Brown, Mr. Breton writes, “signed the Trust Act in part because he felt federal authorities were unfairly detaining people during immigration sweeps, and that was making communities distrustful of local police.”

So Sheriff Jones, no lefty-San Francisco law enforcement official, also does not honor detainer requests.

But a bigger point is that, while men like Mr. Sanchez get released every day, there’s a point “we’re missing while screaming about the border.”

Mr. Sanchez’s criminal record centered on drug offenses, along with parole violations and returning to the US after being deported.

Writes Mr. Breton, “Even if Sanchez were not undocumented, that kind of record can mean a-get-out-of-jail card since California voters passed Proposition 47. Californians overwhelmingly supported the idea of clearing jails of ‘nonviolent offenders.’” Mr. Sanchez did not have a violent conviction in his past.

Mr. Breton notes, “More violent men than Sanchez are being turned loose in Sacramento under Prop. 47 every day.”

This gets to the portion of Mr. Breton’s column that I don’t agree with. He notes that frequently, men with violent pasts are let loose due to Prop. 47, based on the fact that convictions on drug charges are automatically reduced in the wake of Prop. 47.

The idea is that if their current sentencing is based on a non-violent drug offense, we may well be releasing people with violent histories on the streets.

Mr. Breton talked to Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy DA Robin Shakely, who said “her agency has turned loose men with violent pasts.” She said, “roughly 1,400 felons had had their cases reduced to misdemeanors in Sacramento as of the end of June. Some have been in and out of prison for years. They aren’t crossing a militarized border to arrive in Sacramento. They are already here. They are on the streets.”

It is an interesting argument – the idea being that people with violent histories, who have served that sentence, should be held on non-violent drug offenses even though they have served their time on the more serious offenses.

For Prop. 47 to work, we are going to have to put our resources into treating drug addiction and mental illness that are the base causes of the more violent incidents. If we do not, Prop. 47 will fail. What concerns me is that many of the people in charge of prosecutors’ offices seem to want Prop. 47 to fail.

In the end, I agree with Mr. Breton’s conclusionary point: “That doesn’t mean that the Sanchez case wasn’t a travesty. Immigration reform should bring harsher sentences that specifically target those who continually return to the U.S. after being deported. But men with scarier records than Sanchez are getting out every day. Does it make you feel safer if they are American citizens?”

But in this politicized climate, these are points that keep escaping people, just as the point made in our published column from the ACLU was lost.

“How could the federal government have handled this differently? If ICE had presented the Sheriff’s Department with a judicial order authorizing detention, San Francisco could legally have kept Lopez-Sanchez in custody temporarily for ICE—and it would have done so, under its policies. But ICE didn’t do that.

“So the question remains: Why did ICE use a detainer form that it knew San Francisco would not enforce — indeed a form that ICE itself has announced it will no longer use? Before policymakers rush to judgment, we need answers on what actually went wrong here.”

In my view, ICE could fix this problem by getting judicial orders that authorize detention. They probably would have to justify the hold, but in the case of Mr. Sanchez, that would have been relatively easy.

So why is ICE refusing to change their policies?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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42 thoughts on “Commentary: The Immigration Issue Is Only One Factor Among Many in SF Tragedy”

  1. zaqzaq

    David,
    Once again you adopt the misguided liberal policy of the ACLU.  The starting point has Sanchez in federal custody pending deportation until the SF Sheriff’s Office (SFSO) requests that he be turned over on a 20 year old warrant.   The feds comply with the request although with the supremacy clause I suspect they could ignore the request.  We do not know if there is any communication between the DA and SFSO before Sanchez is turned over to the SFSO.  One could make the argument that the SFSO knew that the case would be dismissed due to the age of the warrant and that under current policies this would result in Sanchez being released into the community.  ICE places a detainer on Sanchez with the SFSO.  Once in SFSO custody the DA dismisses the charges against Sanchez and then SFSO releases him ignoring the ICE detainer consistent with their sanctuary city policy.  Had either the SFSO complied with the legal ICE detainer or had ICE obtained a warrant via a judge ICE would have picked Sanchez up and the murder would not have occurred.  This is the crux of the issue for the blame game that followed.

    “How could the federal government have handled this differently? If ICE had presented the Sheriff’s Department with a judicial order authorizing detention, San Francisco could legally have kept Lopez-Sanchez in custody temporarily for ICE—and it would have done so, under its policies. But ICE didn’t do that.”

    It comes down to a policy issue and for me a resource issue.  ICE policy and procedures should be standardized which is what occurred here.  They issue the legal detainer and from my perspective the detainer should be complied with.  Getting a warrant requires the use of additional resources (writing the warrant and supporting declaration and a judge to review the warrant) which wastes taxpayers money when it is not required.  Counties with sanctuary city policies where the Sheriff ignores ICE detainers should lose all federal funds until they comply with the legal detainers.  That is my solution.  No federal funds for housing, schools , … .

    “So the question remains:  Why did ICE use a detainer form that it knew San Francisco would not enforce — indeed a form that ICE itself has announced it will no longer use? Before policymakers rush to judgment, we need answers on what actually went wrong here.”

    This is a red herring concerning the “form” that ICE no longer uses.  They have new detainer forms, not a judicial review policy, that are also detainers which would also be ignored by the SFSO.
    The bottom line is whether you believe that a sheriffs office should or must comply with ICE concerning inmates in their custody.  I believe that they should and failure to do so is bad policy.  I also do not believe that we want the Davis Police Department to be conducting immigration investigations as part of their policing but once an illegal alien is in the custody of a jail the local sheriff should cooperate with ICE.  Our country has a strong policy interest in focusing deportation efforts on illegal aliens who are arrested and jailed for breaking the law in this country.  We should be able to kick out unwanted guests in our home who do not follow the house rules.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Zaqzaq: The starting point is the unknown here – why did the Sheriff’s Office request him to be transferred? I hardly think they would have done so just to release him. Thus I think we need to establish that before deciding the rest of your first paragraph.

      The key point the ACLU makes here is that the detainer policy is not followed and will not be followed. ICE knows this, yet continues to do it. The proposal from the ACLU, which makes a lot of sense, is to get a judicial order which the local law enforcement has no choice but to follow. The key difference is that they would have to make a showing and could not order a blanket retainer.

      There is a secondary point that no one seems to want to acknowledge here – there was nothing in his background that indicated he was nearly the threat that he turned out to be. It is unfortunate, but not all that different from thousands of other situations where a person ends up serving their time and are released, only to commit a far worse offense. It’s not like a known violent offender was released from prison. Had he been an American citizen – he would have been release pro-forma with no questions asked.

      1. zaqzaq

        First the SFSO most likely executed the existing warrant in the system without conferring with the DA about whether they would prosecute the case or dismiss it due to age.  I suspect that the personnel making the request knew what the likely outcome.  I did NOT state that they purposely sought custody of Sanchez in order to release him.  I did state that one could make the argument that they knew what the outcome would be.

        The proposal from the ACLU is a waste of resources that should not be necessary.  The federal government should withhold all federal funds for any organization operating in a sanctuary county or city that ignores federal law to include ICE detainers.  This would result in compliance with ICE detainers.  The only judicial order that I think ICE should obtain is a blanket order that the SFSnO must comply with ICE detainers.  There should be no case by case judicial review for a warrant.  That is an unnecessary waste of money.  Even Boxer and Feinstein disagree with the release of Sanchez and thus the ACLU position that you support as reasonable.  That is how out of touch with reality your position really is.

        I do not care if he has a history of violence or not.  He is a repeat criminal and should have been removed from the community and returned to sender ASAP.  The fact that SF has a policy to allow losers like Sanchez to stay in their city only to commit more crime is consistent with a city whose Sheriff is convicted of a domestic violence crime while in office where he beats his wife.  I fail to comprehend the values of that city.  Even the NFL gets it when it comes to domestic violence.

      2. TrueBlueDevil

        I know, I know .. the 2 sheriffs killed in Sacramento last summer could have been killed by a citizen, the young woman could have as well, as well as the tens and hundreds of thousands of other various crimes could – theoretically – be committed by citizens. Philosophically, that is.

        BTW, I heard SF may have sent Sheriffs down to Ssouthern California to pick him up. Is that possibly true? Why? Could money be the motivation? Or is there some kind of quota system?

  2. Tia Will

    If ICE had presented the Sheriff’s Department with a judicial order authorizing detention, San Francisco could legally have kept Lopez-Sanchez in custody temporarily for ICE—and it would have done so, under its policies.””

     Had either the SFSO complied with the legal ICE detainer or had ICE obtained a warrant via a judge ICE would have picked Sanchez up and the murder would not have occurred.”

    I do not pretend to know which policy would be the best to pursue. What I do know is that there should be a uniform policy  with current forms and processes and there should be full communication between agencies whenever one of these cases arises. The finger pointing and histrionics about the need for an immigrant proof fence complete with disparaging stereotypical comments fail to provide any viable solutions and are the antithesis of attempting to arrive at a humane solution to either immigration or random acts of unpredictable violence regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator.

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      come on tia – you do know which policy is best to pursue.  one has an unlimited amount of detainers without due process of law that can amount to indefinite detention sometimes for extremely minor crimes and the other forces ice to make a showing for cause.  is this rocket science?

      1. Tia Will

        DP

        i phrased my response poorly. If these were the only two options the choice woud be clear. I do not believe that other, more collaborative options less error prone could be found if the involved agencies were more interested in problem solving  and determining best practices than in the CYA approach which is what is being used .

         

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      I would not call 7,000 sex crimes leading to deportation in Texas in a three year period is “histronics”. I call it reality. Something like 26% were committed against minors.

      This brutal murder has just ripped the scab off of a festering problem which the left and journalists (many from the left) have hidden under the rug.

  3. Anon

    From CNN:

    “Lopez-Sanchez told KGO he repeatedly returned to the United States after he was deported because he could find work and make more money than in his native Mexico… Asked whether he came to San Francisco because … officials there would not deport him, he said yes.”

    “In March, Lopez-Sanchez was turned over to San Francisco authorities and ultimately released after completing a federal prison sentence.

    U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement said San Francisco wanted Lopez-Sanchez on a drug warrant, so the agency handed him over with a request to let it know if he was to be released.

    Despite that request, San Francisco authorities let him go in April after the drug charges were dropped.

    Freya Horne, chief legal counsel to the San Francisco County Sheriff, said city officials believe such requests violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    San Francisco is one of about 70 jurisdictions around the country that have policies limiting police involvement in immigration matters, according to the Immigration Policy Center.”

    1. Davis Progressive

      these are not the points in question at this point.  the question is why ice would file for a detainer that they *KNEW* would not be honored when they had other options.

      1. hpierce

        Y’all are arguing about SFSO, ICE, immigration policy, and ‘frankly’ it’s all BS.

        An innocent young woman is dead.  Her family greiving.

        SFSO, ICE, Obama, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives, etc., did not use a gun to murder an innocent woman.  This man is not ‘a citizen’… he may not be truly ‘human’.  To add to my previous suggestions of where he should be deported to, add Gitmo… he is arguably a terrorist.

         

        1. Davis Progressive

          while i hear you, i will remind you that that part of the process is ongoing.  there is a well-defined criminal process, he’ll get his due process of law and the courts will handle it.

    2. zaqzaq

      Then maybe they should litigate them instead of ignoring them.  If a judge rules that they are an illegal search and seizure then it would be appropriate for them to ignore them.  I am not aware that they have done so.  I think that ICE should obtain a blanket judicial order to enforce the detainers.

  4. Frankly

    The solution here is to enhance the federal crime for entering the country illegally, and for being here lacking legal immigration status.   Today they are a federal misdemeanor (minimum class B, I think) and a civil violation respectively.  They should be upgraded to a class D felony and a class C misdemeanor respectively.

    Law makers can make this change.  But they don’t.  Know why?

    1. Davis Progressive

      how about a different approach – use the market to regulate the flow.  allow immigrants to apply for jobs at the border and once they secure a job, issue a work visa.

      1. Frankly

        You assume that the immigrants coming here illegally would be the same that would stand in line to get a legal job.  Some would, but many would not.   And once here, if their job ended or their visa ended why would they go back?

        Your idea might have merit together with my idea.  They are really mutually exclusive to some degree, because one is about law and crime and the other is about economics.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i don’t assume your first sentence.  what i believe is that once you create a reasonable avenue that is streamlined for people to enter, you cut the legs out from under the human trafficking black market.  it’s not that people with ill-intentions won’t enter, but the probably will be much more manageable by weeding out the bulk of the entrants who probably have honorable intentions.  and then you free up the $18 billion to focus on those who are a problem.

        2. Frankly

          There is already a legal path for seasonal workers, and for work visas for hard to fill jobs.  The people that come here illegally attempt to circumvent that process.  They would still attempt to circumvent the process.  Because the US government does absolutely nothing “streamlined”.  It would be a pipe dream to think that the US could and would have some simplified entry program connected to jobs in this day of global terrorism and partisanship bickering over jobs and crime and budgets.

          We also have a problem in this country that there are Americans not working that should do these jobs.

        3. Davis Progressive

          i think the problem is that those aren’t realistic paths – i’m talking about a very easy, streamlined process done at the border itself.

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          A “streamlined” process doesn’t solve the fact that half the world would come to America if they could.

          A “streamlined” process doesn’t solve the fact that we have the longest unprotected border in the world between a 1st world and a 2nd world nation.

          I believe we already allow the highest legal immigration numbers in the world, at least 1 million visas, as well as other types of student visas, tourist visas, etc., some of which are also abused by those that illegally overstay their length.

          I also find it rather hypocritical when highly paid six-figure lawyers and doctors who will never be negatively affected by the current illegal immigration, or their future planned increased immigration, push their agenda. In fact, they may get a cheaper supply of yard help, maid help, nannies, and construction workers; yet it is the Mexican-American, African-American, and simply Working-American who suffers the consequences in spades.

          Then next week you will have your 12th article on a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which is kicked in the teeth by unchecked illegal immigration. Hypocrisy.

      1. Frankly

        Under the current law that benefits law makers, you are correct.

        But by definition it is certainly grand larceny.  If you come into my house uninvited and eat my food and create other expenses for me that I would otherwise not have, you are in fact stealing from me.   It does not matter that you do some work around my home in an attempt to make yourself useful, you are still uninvited and stealing from me.   I can respect your work ethic and fee sorry for your economic or social plight outside of my home, but again, if you invite yourself in uninvited and help yourself to what is mine, you are stealing.

        1. Davis Progressive

          the problem is that the law protects private homes much more than other areas of society.  so a residential burglar is first degree burglary whereas other areas including businesses are second degree.  the standard for search and seizure in a private residence is a search warrant whereas in other areas it is probably cause and even reasonable suspicion.  so your analysis doesn’t fit the state of our laws.

        2. Frankly

          The USOA is my home.  Of course my point is being made metaphorically.  But the analogy is appropriate.  The laws need to be changed to honor and to protect existing legal residents from harm caused by illegal residents.  We could do that by increasing the crime status.

          I know that my proposal does not fit existing law, that is why I am suggesting we change the law.

          There is a solution to every problem if only we can prevail against the opposition of those being well-served by the problem.

        3. Davis Progressive

          the laws don’t recognize metaphors.  i think this is a case where you are better off going with your free market, capitalistic impulses to find a solution that is market drive.  it’s basic supply and demand that drives this.

        4. Tia Will

          “Know why ?” I believe I do but you will likely disagree with my assessment. We imprison more people than any other advanced country at tremendous cost. I do not want to be spending more money to incarcerate based on immigration status. If this man is proven guilty, it is because of the individual that he is, not because of his nationality or his immigration status.

        5. Frankly

          I’m all for purging our prison system of people that only harm themselves with drug possession, and filling them instead with illegal immigrants.

          And guess what? if we are charging illegal immigrants with a felony and locking them up to serve time before deporting them, there will be a lot less of them coming here illegally.

        6. TrueBlueDevil

          Frankly has some good points.

          Tia, are you OK with putting in prison the 7,000 illegal aliens in Texas the past three years who committed sex crimes?

  5. hpierce

    hpierce
    July 16, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Y’all are arguing about SFSO, ICE, immigration policy, and ‘frankly’ it’s all BS.

    An innocent young woman is dead.  Her family greiving.

    SFSO, ICE, Obama, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives, etc., did not use a gun to murder an innocent woman.  This man is not ‘a citizen’… he may not be truly ‘human’.  To add to my previous suggestions of where he should be deported to, add Gitmo… he is arguably a terrorist.

    1. Frankly

      It seems to me that some care less for the dead woman and her family than they do for prevailing in their open borders worldview and cheap labor worldview.

      What we know absolutely is that the death of this young woman and all the harm of loss and grief it caused her family and friends is 100% blamed on our crappy immigration policy and lackluster enforcement which is 100% because of greed.  Greed of political power-seekers wanting to appease a base of easy votes and greed of business wanting cheap labor.

      Aggravating and sad.

  6. Davis Progressive

    “It seems to me that some care less for the dead woman and her family than they do for prevailing in their open borders worldview and cheap labor worldview.”

    except that it was the anti-immigrant crew that tried to seize advantage of the issue.

    “What we know absolutely is that the death of this young woman and all the harm of loss and grief it caused her family and friends is 100% blamed on our crappy immigration policy and lackluster enforcement which is 100% because of greed.”

    we don’t know that at all.  why did ice try to use a detainer that they knew wouldn’t be honored?  you guys don’t want to address this point.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      What “crew”?

      A promising young women is murdered in broad daylight taking a walk with her Father. She dies in his arms, asking “Dad, please help me.” Pretty tragic.

      On top of that, the family has not sought attention, and the White House has not contacted them. If you want a “crew” … go talk to the White House “crew”. (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, etc.)

  7. TrueBlueDevil

    This is not a discussion about “immigration policies” – it is a discussion about ILLEGAL immigration, a massively open border, lax enforcement, and repeat felonies and violent crimes being committed by said illegal immigrants.

  8. Anon

    DP: “these are not the points in question at this point.  the question is why ice would file for a detainer that they *KNEW* would not be honored when they had other options.

    Your question is valid.  However, BUT FOR San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy, it would have notified ICE, no?  I would argue two wrongs don’t make a right.  BOTH Feds AND San Francisco are to blame for this woman’s death.  I would also argue the federal gov’t should stop dithering about the issue of sanctuary cities and come up with a definitive policy (including a guest worker program), and if that included taking away federal funding from cities that have sanctuary city policies, then so be it.

    The feds have been dancing around states and cities defying federal law for some time now, e.g. legalization of marijuana. The feds need to get a backbone and make clear what the law will be and enforce it. Instead they have allowed this murky practice of allowing states and cities to thumb their nose at federal law, causing all sorts of problems.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think this is the most reasonable point i have seen on this.  i agree with you that there needs to be agreements.  personally i think marijuana issues are somewhat separate from immigration ones.

      i agree with you that federal government should come to a policy about how to treat immigration detainers.  i believe current policies are inadequate and unconstitutional.

      i don’t believe we have the resources or the ability to stop illegal immigration, but it is noteworthy that when the economy collapsed, immigration flows decreased.  that suggests a market solution can be realized.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        We can put a man on the moon, we can stop the floodgates. It has to be a multi-pronged solution, and it would also help the Mexican / Central American people who are victimized by coyotes, and help keep families intact.

        1. There is a 700-mile fence that Obama defunded. Fences work.

        2. For some odd reason, we keep border agents miles from the border which seems counter-intuitive. Put them on the border.

        3. We can use drones and cameras to spot law breakers in advance.

        4. We could bring in the National Guard for support.

        5. We could use technology more frequently to try to proactively find tunnels.

        The savings here on drug enforcement alone might pay for these costs, not to mention the death and destruction meth and heroine cause to our population. Not to mention how this will help working people in America with more jobs and higher wages.

  9. Tia Will

    TBD

    Tia, are you OK with putting in prison the 7,000 illegal aliens in Texas the past three years who committed sex crimes?”

    I am okay with treating violent and/ or dangerous individuals as equals under the law regardless of their country of origin.

  10. TrueBlueDevil

    I tried to look up an article I read last night about 2 people who were killed in Texas by an illegal immigrant. The town was something like Wescalo. Instead, another article popped up about the murder of two women by illegal immigrants, murders that could be prevented if the border was secure.

    But these are just anecdotes.

    If there 7,000 sex crimes in Texas the past 3 years are illustrative, that means that if 20% of illegal immigrants live in Texas, nationwide there could have been 35,000 sex crimes committed by non-Americans. If only ten percent of illegal immigrants live in Texas, that means that 70,000 sex crimes were committed by non-Americans.

    Do you really support that?

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