As we all get together with friends or family this day of Independence, we see the headlines dominated by the tragic, random shooting death of Kathryn Steile this past Wednesday in San Francisco, as she walked down Pier 14.
Shooting her to death was an undocumented immigrant, five times previously deported, 45 year old Francisco Sanchez, who had been recently released by the San Francisco Sheriff’s office. You see, Sanchez was wanted by I.C.E., Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because he had been previously deported. But he was not wanted for any open criminal cases, nor were there any judicial warrants or arrest warrants for Sanchez. If people are in jail and are sought by ICE merely because they are in the U.S. illegally, S.F has a policy of not honoring ICE hold requests. It has been the policy of progressive politics-dominated San Francisco for awhile. The idea behind this policy is that there have been way too many deportations of undocumented immigrants simply because they are arrested for minor criminal charges–often misdemeanors, and often nonviolent, such as a DUI.
But now that Ms. Steile died in a random shooting by one of the individuals that ICE had requested that the San Francisco jail hand off to them, the sanctuary policy is under a hot light.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump has jumped on this tragic event, having previously denounced Mexican immigrants as being people who bring rape, murder, and crime into the country. This is a hot-button situation that feeds into Trumps political opportunism, but we have to proceed carefully. Mexican immigrants–documented or not, are largely, and mostly, hard-working, decent, law-abiding, and honorable people. We should be careful not to jump to quick responses, and issue cookie-cutter rules or approaches to a delicate situtation.
The San Francisco sanctuary policy does not need to be trashed. It needs to be tweaked. It needs to be flexible and smart, so that the Sanchez’ of the world get caught and held by ICE, but the others–the vast majority who pose no real threat to society, won’t be deported, ripping them horribly from their families.
Caution is needed. We should not be drive by emotion, racism, or ethnic hostilities–the exact thing Trump is now appealing to. A careful balance needs to be struck between the immigration authorities’ needs, and our local needs for law enforcement and public safety. The criminal defendant, who is also an undocumented immigrant, poses special concerns and needs, and blanket rules that are inflexible are the wrong way to go–whether it is to lock ’em all up, or let ’em all go.