“We cannot allow one event to dictate 25 years of our city’s policies toward undocumented immigrants," Supervisor Malia Cohen told a cheering crowd of 250 mostly Latino supporters yesterday. This was in response to a Board of Supervisors vote unanimously reaffirming San Francisco's status as a "sanctuary city" following a national uproar over the death of Kathyrn Steinle at Pier 14 this summer.
Specifically, the Board will not change its
non-binding resolution, one that is both symbolic and powerful, ordinance observed and upheld since 1989, that the sheriff should only notify federal immigration authorities of the release of an inmate with no legal status if they have had a violent felony conviction in the past seven years and face another violent felony charge.
Cohen spoke firmly about the push for scrutiny of the policy, after the killing of 32-year-old Steinle at the hands of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an unauthorized immigrant who had been five times deported to Mexico for various felonies including drug charges and had been released from a San Francisco jail shortly before the killing. Lopez-Sanchez allegedly committed the homicide, perhaps unintentionally while under the influence of drugs, with a gun he claims to have found — one that disappeared from the car of a federal agent.
The event, you'll remember, was fodder for coded (and not-so-coded) anti-immigrant bigotry from the likes of Donald Trump and Fox News. And indeed, the vote of confidence in our Sanctuary City designation was covered everywhere from the Chronicle to the New York Times to, yes, Fox — though that news outlet deployed AP coverage, perhaps after learning a lesson this summer when Scott Wiener gained praise for shaking off a Fox news crew. "Fox News is not real news, and you're not a real reporter," he said on camera, walking to his office.
"All of us in this room agree that the death of Kathryn Steinle was senseless and tragic," Cohen continued, first implicitly and then explicitly addressing conservative critics, "but what many of us disagree on is the role — if any — that San Francisco's existing sanctuary and due-process-for-all" ordinances played in the event... [We] cannot allow hateful conservative news stations to drive how we make policy decisions here in San Francisco."
Despite the show of solidarity in the unanimous vote, there was and have been questions from among California Democrats. Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote in a letter to Mayor Lee that further tragedies would be avoided if the city worked with immigration enforcement officials, and Supervisor Mark Farrell proposed, in an
an ordinance a non-binding resolution that was tabled by the rest of the board and drew protest from the crowd, that Sheriff Mirkarimi rescind an order specifically prohibiting his staff from tendering information to federal immigration immigrants.
Said a pouting Farrell, "To table the resolution “is the same as saying no one should have picked up the phone this summer (before Lopez-Sanchez was released) ... and I simply don’t agree with that.. It flies in the face of public safety.”
Meanwhile, said David Campos, who co-sponsored the resolution, "I'm so proud of San Francisco... I'm so proud that notwithstanding the climate at the national level of scapegoating immigrants that San Francisco went against that."
That's particularly true when considering that more than half of the nearly 340 jurisdictions with similar policies regarding immigration officials have backpedalled, and are now cooperating with those officials.
Correction: This article has been updated to show that the City’s sanctuary city policy is and has been an ordinance, while Mark Farrell's proposal was not an ordinance but a non-binding resolution.