ICE responds to San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s finger-pointing over Pier 14 fatal shooting

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi gestures during an interview Monday, July 6, 2015, in San Francisco. Mirkarimi has defended the release of Francisco Sanchez from jail on April 15, who is now accused in the shooting death of a woman at a popular tourist site. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi gestures during an interview Monday, July 6, 2015, in San Francisco. Mirkarimi has defended the release of Francisco Sanchez from jail on April 15, who is now accused in the shooting death of a woman at a popular tourist site. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

This story is courtesy of our sister station – KRON.

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — An official with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that San Francisco sheriff’s assertion that ICE failed to provide a judicial order to extend the incarceration of an illegal immigrant who is now being accused of gunning down a woman on The Embarcadero “reflects a manifest misunderstanding of federal immigration law.”

ICE’s response was released in a statement Friday afternoon after Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s press conference in which the sheriff detailed the events that led up to the release of a Mexican national who was in the U.S. illegally and has now been charged in the fatal shooting of a woman at San Francisco’s Pier 14.

“We strongly disagree with the Sheriff’s characterization of the facts in this case. This is a tragic situation — we must not engage in finger-pointing and all work together to make sure it is not repeated,” said Virginia Kice, ICE Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson.

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, 45, is accused of killing Kate Steinle, 32, of San Francisco, as she was walked along the dock with her father and a family friend on July 1.

Records show that Sanchez, who has a U.S. crime record dating back to 1991, had been deported five times prior to his arrest for Steinle’s murder.

A few months before the shooting, Sanchez was placed in the custody of San Francisco sheriff’s department for a 20-year-old warrant from December 1995 saying he failed to appear on two drug charges.

On March 27, ICE issued a civil detainer, saying they want custody of Sanchez when he is out of custody. But on that same day, charges against him are dismissed. On April 15, that ICE detainer is ignored and Sanchez is released.

“It (the detainer) is not a legal order to extend an individual’s incarceration,” Mirkarimi said.

Since ICE did not provide the sheriff’s office with a warrant or legal request to detain Sanchez, he was legally released, according to Mirkarimi.

“There is no such document, nor is there any federal court with the authority to issue one. Neither is there a legal requirement that ICE provide a judicial warrant to law enforcement agencies in order to receive such notifications,” said Kice.

READ ICE’S FULL STATEMENT BELOW

STATEMENT
We strongly disagree with the Sheriff’s characterization of the facts in this case. This is a tragic situation — we must not engage in finger-pointing and all work together to make sure it is not repeated.

In fact, despite a formal request from ICE to the Sheriff’s Department seeking notification of his impending release, the individual was released without notifying ICE. Had ICE been notified as requested, the agency would have taken this individual into custody and removed him from the country, as dictated by federal law and ICE’s enforcement priorities.

The individual in question was caught, tried, and convicted by federal authorities for illegally reentering the United States and was subsequently turned over to the custody of the Sheriff’s office, at their request, on an outstanding felony warrant.

The newly announced Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) was specifically developed to address concerns raised about Secure Communities by state and local law enforcement agencies and their communities, and it is the hope of DHS and ICE that PEP will earn their support. DHS and its components, including the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, ICE Director, and others, have engaged with hundreds of jurisdictions seeking their participation in PEP. This includes Sheriff Mirkarimi, who Secretary Johnson met with personally on April 20, to ask for his support of PEP.

PEP is a balanced, common-sense law enforcement approach toward our shared goal of protecting public safety. We welcome Sheriff Mirkarimi’s invitation, and that of other state and local law enforcement and government officials, to work collaboratively under PEP to support community policing and public safety.

On Background:
The individual in question was convicted multiple times and served criminal sentences for illegal reentry after deportation, in violation of 18 USC 1326. To be convicted of that crime – which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard that probable cause that would allow for the issuance of a warrant – it was proven to a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual in question was illegally present in the United States.

The Sheriff’s assertion that ICE is required to provide some form of “judicial” order in order to receive the requested notification reflects a manifest misunderstanding of federal immigration law . There is no such document, nor is there any federal court with the authority to issue one. Neither is there a legal requirement that ICE provide a judicial warrant to law enforcement agencies in order to receive such notifications.

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