Sunday, July 5, 2015

City of Refuge, or City of Sitting Ducks?

It has been TWENTY-SIX years since the City and County of San Francisco declared itself a "Sanctuary" City, a City and County of Refuge.

It has been TWENTY-SIX years since the City and County of San Francisco ENACTED AN ORDINANCE DECLARING that it would not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), declaring that San Francisco, not the government of the United States, would determine the policy to be followed regarding the treatment of undocumented aliens, including ones previously convicted of violent felonies.

It has been TWENTY-SIX years since the City and County of San Francisco TOLD THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT that its laws, its rules, its requirements were irrelevant.

Now, Kathryn Steinle is dead. And perhaps we would not even know her name, but for the unhappy coincidence of the timing of her execution while on an afternoon stroll with her father as Donald Trump was being lambasted for remarks about the sad reality that many many undocumented aliens entering the USA from Mexico are not GOOD PEOPLE, but EVIL, CRIMINAL PEOPLE.

Trump's prescience and candor doesn't mean you or I should vote for him. It does mean, however, that every "harrumphing" fool who tosses down pretense to offense at Trump's remarks must be made to feel the discomfort of answering for Steinle's murder. They must not be allowed to soften the blows to themselves by referring to Steinle's death as "senseless" or "random."

Steinle's death makes perfect sense. The curve of policy and practice, the criminal history of the accused, these things made what happened the day Steinle died predictable, and, by the way, avoidable.

A man commits MULTIPLE felonies, and has the convictions for seven of them to prove it. That man is DEPORTED five times, but is again in the USA. What? In the USA after having been excluded FIVE TIME?

Do not forget these points. The ICE folks at DHS KNOW his record. They have his record. They see his record. They know that he has pending charges in San Francisco. AS A COURTESY, ICE delivers the alleged killer to San Francisco, and places a detainer request with the San Francisco Sheriff's Office.


The San Francisco Sheriff's Office is part of the City and County of San Francisco. That is the same entity that TWENTY SIX YEARS AGO declared itself a CITY AND COUNTY OF REFUGE. That is the same entity that TWENTY SIX YEARS AGO declared as a matter of policy that IT WOULD NOT HONOR such detainer requests. ICE KNEW, at the time when it transferred Francisco Sanchez to San Francisco's Sheriff's Department along with a detainer request THAT THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT HAD A POLICY OF NON-COOPERATION. Yet ICE still delivered him into the Sheriff's hands, the hands that would not protect Steinle, the hands that are stained with her blood.

Nothing about this incident was UNAVOIDABLE.

Nothing about this incident was UNPREDICTABLE.

If you LIVE in a City of Refuge, or a Sanctuary City, you live in place that has declared itself above the Constitution, above the law of the land. That doesn't, however, equate with converting the place where you live into a safer, a more beautiful, a more kind, or a more gentle place.  As the death of Kathryn Steinle teaches us, it simply means that you are in a place where a dangerous person, with an established and lengthy criminal record, will nonetheless be released by your city officials as a defiant taunt against federal requirements for how to handle undocumented aliens.

If you are the governing officials of such cities, you are, yourself, a criminal. Your city's defiant declaration to disregard the constitutional role of the Congress in establishing immigration and naturalization policies shows that this is the case. Feel self-righteous and smug? I guess, that's understandable. You've blinded yourself to the blood of victims like Kathryn Steinle.

If you are an official of ICE, please, do not pretend that you do not bear responsibility for these kinds of mayhem. You know which are the Cities of Refuge, the Sanctuary Cities. When you KNOW that these cities choose to lawlessly defy the policy of the Congress established in our immigration and naturalization statutes, and extend courtesies of any kind to them, you bear responsibility too.

And, as I explained here yesterday, if you are a member of the United States Congress, you are on notice of this problem. You have the means to bring appropriate pressure to bear on Cities of Refuge that receive federal funds simply by conditioning the receipt of federal funds on cooperation with ICE Detainer requests.

If you are a citizen, if you are a person of good will, even a person who, as I do, knows that many undocumented aliens in the United States are not criminals, are not filled with disregard for life and limb of others, you too have a responsibility. Speak and act. Speak out against the unlawful practices of Cities of Refuge, such as the one exposed by the murder of Kathryn Steinle. Speak out against the carelessness and disregard for life and safety reflected in acts of "courtesy" by ICE that result in the release of dangerous criminals into the hands of law enforcement officials in Cities of Refuge. And demand that Congress bring financial pressure to bear on Cities of Refuge so that the safety of each and all is enhanced.