San Francisco's Position On Immigration Law Questioned After Fatal Shooting NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Los Angeles Times reporter Lee Romney about the fatal shooting of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented immigrant.
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San Francisco's Position On Immigration Law Questioned After Fatal Shooting

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San Francisco's Position On Immigration Law Questioned After Fatal Shooting

San Francisco's Position On Immigration Law Questioned After Fatal Shooting

San Francisco's Position On Immigration Law Questioned After Fatal Shooting

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NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Los Angeles Times reporter Lee Romney about the fatal shooting of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented immigrant.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A fatal shooting in San Francisco has brought scrutiny to that city's status as a self-declared sanctuary city for immigrants. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez - who's used other names - admitted in a local television interview to shooting 32-year-old Kate Steinle. He claimed it was an accident. Kate Steinle was walking on the city's Pier 14 with her father. Lopez-Sanchez was in court today charged with murder. He has committed a string of felonies in the U.S., mostly drug-related, and he's been deported to his native Mexico five times, each time managing to get back into the country. Until this spring, he was in federal custody, detained by ICE - Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. ICE sent him to the San Francisco sheriff because of a 20-year-old drug case. When the DA declined to prosecute that charge, ICE wanted him back, but San Francisco set him free.

Lee Romney is covering this story for The Los Angeles Times and joins us to tell us more about it.

Has anyone explained how Lopez-Sanchez managed to get back into the U.S. five times after being deported?

LEE ROMNEY: Well, there's a little bit of information on that. He crossed many times. It's not clear exactly how, but at least a few times, it seems like he crossed through ports of entry. And so their border is certainly porous, and that's an issue that is being raised now in response to this case. You know, some people who have been strong critics of immigration law say, you know, it's not exactly the sheriff's fault or San Francisco's fault when there are, you know, state laws and some legal concerns. But why is he able to keep crossing over and over and over again?

SIEGEL: The reasoning here is that you encourage immigrant communities to call the police when there's trouble. They won't do it if they suspect that immigration will get involved and throw out somebody who's here illegally. I assume if one supports a law like that, this case is your worst nightmare - somebody who's in the country because of the sanctuary city status is now charged with murder?

ROMNEY: That's correct. It goes beyond sanctuary city, even though sanctuary city is sort of a state of mind for San Francisco. There are other sort of legal questions about complying with ICE holds or detainers. Either it's the question of the cost to local jurisdictions because they're not reimbursed, and then there are constitutional questions that have emerged. In April of 2014, there was a federal court ruling in Oregon where a woman who was held beyond her release date sued and a federal judge determined that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated, so the county was actually held liable. And once that happened, even more jurisdictions started to kind of hold back on complying and have been trying not to hold people beyond their release dates out of fear of litigation.

SIEGEL: What have local political figures said about this in the past week?

ROMNEY: Well, Mayor Ed Lee has come out expressing concern. He signed the Due Process for All ordinance in 2013, but he and the police chief had at first been against it. He had threatened to veto it. And it was strengthened to include some discretion, you know, in these cases that involve more serious crimes. The fact is that even though this guy has an enormous rap sheet and he has a lot of felony convictions, they were drug-related or for criminal re-entry into the United States after deportation, so he was not what is considered to be a violent felon.

SIEGEL: Lee Romney covers Northern California for The Los Angeles Times and spoke to us from San Francisco.

Thanks for talking with us.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

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