San Francisco supervisors vigorously reaffirmed the city's status as a sanctuary city on Tuesday by rejecting a resolution that encouraged cooperation with federal immigration officials involving inmates in local jails.
In addition, the board unanimously approved a resolution urging Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi not to participate in a detainer-notification system that asks jails to let Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials know when an inmate of interest is being released.
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. Democrats accused Republicans of aligning themselves with Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views. The White House had threatened to veto the bill.
The actions by the San Francisco board sent a strong but symbolic message to critics who had lambasted the city after the July 1 shooting of a 32-year-old woman on a city pier. Kate Steinle allegedly by an immigrant who was in the country illegally and had a long criminal record and multiple prior deportations. The man, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, had been released by San Francisco authorities despite a request from federal immigration authorities to keep him detained.
Steinle's 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 Sanchez-Lopez should have been detained.
Sanchez-Lopez says he found the gun under a bench on the pier, and it accidently fired when he picked it up.
Supervisor Malia Cohen called Steinle’s death “senseless and tragic” but said one event should not “dictate 25 years of our city’s policies toward undocumented immigrants in our cities. … “We can talk all we want about improving public safety in this building but if people in our community don’t trust law enforcement, no level of police staffing is going to make our community safe,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I'm so proud of San Francisco," Supervisor David Campos, who co-sponsored the nonbinding resolution, said after the vote. "I'm so proud that notwithstanding the climate at the national level of scapegoating immigrants that San Francisco went against that."
Roy Beck, director of NumbersUSA, which calls for limiting immigration, said it's frightening that supervisors sided with immigrants who are in the country illegally -- 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.
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. A follow-up ordinance in 2013 allows detention only under a court order targeting violent felons.
San Francisco and other cities and counties have routinely ignored requests from ICE to keep people in custody. The jurisdictions say they can't hold arrestees beyond their scheduled release dates without probable cause.
However, more than half of the roughly 340 jurisdictions that previously declined to cooperate with ICE are now doing so in some form, as long as they don't have to keep immigrants in custody.
The shift came after outreach by federal immigration officials and several high-profile cases, including the one in San Francisco.
Mirkarimi said on Tuesday through a spokeswoman that the unanimous vote by the board validates his policy.
Supervisors on Tuesday tabled another resolution urging Mirkarimi to revoke a department-wide memo prohibiting communication between his staff and federal immigration authorities.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press