By all accounts Kate Steinle was a vivacious young woman with a bright future ahead of her — until she met her death at the hands of an illegal alien while strolling on a San Francisco pier with her father, who witnessed the fatal shooting. The alien was quickly apprehended by police and identified as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico with seven felony convictions and five prior deportations from the United States.
According to media outlets, Lopez-Sanchez was arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for a drug violation and did the right thing: They turned him over to the police for prosecution and filed a detainer requesting that they get him back at the conclusion of the charges. That's where things went seriously wrong.
What did the district attorney's office do? They promptly declined to prosecute and the warrant was dismissed. (I would bet good money that, whether they admit it or not, the reason they wanted to drop the charges is because they figured the subject could just be dumped back on the federal government saving them time and headaches while compounding someone else's.)
Meanwhile, Lopez-Sanchez had been booked into the San Francisco County Jail. What did they do? Refuse to honor the detainer filed by the agents who had given them the subject to prosecute in the first place, simply releasing him instead to the street, where he wandered around until he shot Ms. Steinle to death.
Since the murder, San Francisco officials have been busy trying to point the finger at others for their shocking and cavalier attitude toward public safety. They are desperate to shift attention away from the fact that they are a sanctuary city that routinely releases alien criminals to the streets, asserting that they had no "legal basis" to hold him. This is because they have passed ordinances and policies (as has the state of California) making it near impossible to undertake any kind of meaningful immigration enforcement in the absence of state or local cooperation. But these officials act like those sanctuary laws and policies are immutable, which of course overlooks the fact that all laws and policies are man's creations — in this case, their creations. Reasonable individuals change those laws and policies when confronted with evidence that they are flawed or downright foolish.
Hiding behind the laws and policies by using phrases like "no legal basis" is the refuge of scoundrels willing to go to any length to avoid moral or legal responsibility for life lost and damage done. It is even more scandalous when one considers that San Francisco has the audacity to request grant money from the federal government for incarcerating alien criminals it then obstructs federal agents from taking custody of. The grant money, more than $167,000 in 2014 alone, comes courtesy of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) administered by the federal Justice Department. (California received more than $41.6 million in 2014 even though it passed into law the "TRUST Act", which, as of January of that year, imposed restrictions on cooperation with ICE, or honoring of immigration detainers.)
Now lest San Francisco city and county officials take all of the blame, let us recognize also that the Obama administration is complicit in things having reached this sorry state. They have never once sued or taken other measures against sanctuary states or cities, although they have consistently used their heavy hand to fight states and localities that want to aid in enforcing the immigration laws. Nor have they ever denied San Francisco or any other sanctuary city, county, or state SCAAP funding.
In fact, in February 2014, one of the pliable mandarins among ICE's current senior leadership went so far as to undermine the efficacy of ICE detainers by issuing a public statement asserting that they were voluntary, and required no cooperation or compliance. This was followed by a policy memorandum by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in November 2014 (one of the infamous presidential "executive action" memoranda) that eviscerated the use of detainers.
As for Lopez-Sanchez himself, he confessed in a rambling statement, in which he said he'd been hanging around trying to scrounge jobs in a restaurant, landscaping, roofing, maybe construction; all occupations known to be top-heavy with illegal aliens working with phony papers. Think there's no linkage between "ordinary" illegal immigration, jobs, and crime? Consider this suspect's statement.
And he is not the only illegal alien who has committed murder as the result of policies gone awry. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has documented at least 121 instances of murder committed by alien criminals after being released by the administration since 2010. It is a wonder there has been no public hue and cry over this. If they had all happened at once — say, for instance, as the result of a foreign terrorist attack — citizens would be demanding that heads roll. But because they have come about one-by-one, in a slow, bloody trickle, the White House has gotten away with its dismantling of important immigration enforcement programs designed to keep the public safe and the danger to innocents has been compounded by out-of-control state and local sanctuary policies no one in the federal government has the will to curb.
Looking at the video of Lopez-Sanchez being interviewed, I'm reminded of Hannah Arendt's dictum about the banality of evil. And because he was banal to surface appearances — your illegal alien "everyman" — nobody in a position to do so took him seriously until it was too late. No, I see no one occupying the high moral ground when one analyzes the circumstances surrounding this young woman's needless murder.
So where do we go from here? Congress has the opportunity to act. Both the House and Senate have good, credible immigration enforcement bills before them that could be advanced. In each house, they are called the Davis-Oliver Act. Both bills restore integrity to the use of detainers and impose significant sanctions against the sanctuary policies of state and local governments, among many other favorable features.
If reconciled and approved in both houses, the final bill would probably require a final vote of approval by a super majority to overcome the likely presidential veto. But what better way for a Republican Congress to draw a bright line distinction between its concern for public safety and that of a vacillating White House that never acknowledges the adverse effects of its misguided immigration policies?