When voters don’t like a policy, they can throw the bums out, right? But what do you do when everyone with a chance of winning likes the policy you want to terminate? That’s the challenge facing San Franciscans and Californians who want to change Sanctuary City policies in the wake of the senseless killing of Kate Steinle on July 1.
Mayor Ed Lee signed the 2013 Due Process for All ordinance. Lee maintains that Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is to blame for the reckless release of seven-time convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez (who has pleaded not guilty) not the policy. Lee faces no serious opposition.
The supes passed that measure unanimously. The Chronicle has reported that none of the 11 supervisors has declare a desire to change the policy. As I noted in a recent column, some supes seem angrier at Fox News than the senseless killing of Kate Steinle.
What about giving the Sheriff the boot? It would send a message. But then opponent Vicki Hennessy supports the Sanctuary City law. As The Chronicle reported after a recent debate.
Both candidates said they support the policy, consider the fatal shooting a tragedy and are appalled that it’s being used to demonize the immigrant community.
Who is demonizing the immigrant community? Equating Lopez-Sanchez with the immigrant community is a slur in itself.
In the 2016 election, there are not a lot of choices either. Attorney General Kamala Harris is the lead Democrat to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is retiring. Harris blames Republicans for the release of Lopez-Sanchez. She told Carla Mariniucci:
“What needs to be looked at is..comprehensive immigration reform — that’s the bottom line. Let’s not react to one specific case, when we are looking at a national problem.”
Harris of course has her own history with Sanctuary City policies. But it didn’t hurt her when she ran to become the state’s top law enforcer in 2010. As I wrote at the time.
To start, Harris was in charge when her office aided and abetted in a dangerous misinterpretation of the city’s 1989 sanctuary city law. City officials refused to notify federal immigration officials when police arrested juvenile offenders – or offenders who claimed to be juveniles – on felony charges.
Under her watch (for lack of a better word), the city flew drug offenders to Honduras. When federal authorities stopped this practice in 2008, the city sent eight Hondurans who had been convicted to group homes, from which they escaped.
One Sunday afternoon in June 2008, San Franciscan Tony Bologna, 48, was driving home with his sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16. All three were shot dead. Police charged Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who had been arrested for several felonies as a youth but apparently benefited from the city’s liberal sanctuary policy.
Of course, many San Franciscans were appalled. But did Harris then comb through her files to make sure that no similar cases existed? Apparently not. A month after the triple slaying, police arrested an illegal immigrant enrolled in a Harris job-training program for offenders after he snatched a woman’s purse.
Harris has a Democratic rival in the Senate primary, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County told the Associated Press, “I caution against politicizing this tragedy. This is a time to grieve, not a time to manipulate a senseless killing to fit a political agenda.”
The only elected Republican hopeful isn’t exactly holding the AG’s feet to the fire. In a press statement, GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez said
This case isn’t about immigration. It’s about public safety.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department didn’t target Juan Sanchez for his immigration-status, and rightly so. But when they had the five-time deported and seven-time convicted felon in custody for violating the law, they ignored the request of a federal agency and failed to protect the public.
Let’s ask ourselves how we’d treat a U.S. citizen who broke the law and was wanted by a federal agency. Would we release the citizen? It looks like we’re giving non-citizens more leniencies when they break the law than our citizens – and that’s a broken system that doesn’t protect the public.
We desperately need immigration reform in this country that respects families but protects the public from repeat offenders. Our law enforcement must follow the law and work together with federal agencies to keep us safe, and this time they failed the public.”
Note that Chavez failed to mention Harris’ support of Sanctuary City policies, although he did get in a swipe in at Republicans in Congress.
Former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro, who also is running for Boxer’s seat, told The Associated Press local governments “just can’t thumb their nose at federal law.” He told me, “Immigration is uniquely federal.” Del Beccaro notes that Chavez did not vote on the state’s Sanctuary City law; Chavez took a walk. “On this major issue,” quoth Del Beccaro, “he was nowhere.”
Former GOP chairman Duf Sundheim may jump into the race. I’ll add his take when he is ready to share. 2012 candidate Al Ramirez may get in as well. He tweeted, “I was always clear this is a law and order issue. Time for Latinos to get off the wrong side.” Insiders don’t think a Republican has a shot at the top-two primary — the runoff could be a race between Harris and Sanchez in November — but you never know.
The bottom line is that San Francisco voters who want a change in policy ought to direct pressure at incumbents to change their views on the 2013 ordinance. If they try to throw the bums out, they’ll just get like-minded bums. The options are better for 2016, but not great. Those are the breaks in a one-party state.