Following the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant at a San Francisco pier, Californian politicians are debating how much involvement local law enforcement should have with federal immigration enforcement.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was deported from the U.S. on five occasions due to drug-related felonies, shot Steinle. He has pleaded not guilty but does not immediately risk a sixth round of deportation. He was previously released from a San Francisco jail last April, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency requested his detention in order for an ICE agent to pick him up.

Local law enforcement in some cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, does not need to comply with ICE's requests. Due to Steinle's death, local law enforcement's involvement, or lack of involvement, with ICE has been questioned. ICE has a new program titled Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which asks jails to notify federal agents when an immigrant inmate, flagged for deportation, is about to be released. The program started on July 2, to not much fanfare, but support increased after Steinle's death, even from political figures.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has urged San Francisco to participate in ICE's PEP, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"I have been looking into the circumstances related to the tragic killing of Kathryn Steinle. The suspect has been convicted of 10 crimes, including four drug felonies, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had filed what is known as a detainer asking the San Francisco Sheriff's Department to hold Mr. Sanchez for deportation. The Sheriff's Department failed to respond to that detainer and did not notify ICE when the individual was released," Feinstein wrote in a statement following Steinle's death.

"I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released. We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am looking at whether additional federal legislation may be necessary."

According to Feinstein, she has written to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, encouraging him to participate in PEP. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors reportedly agreed to engage in PEP.

"For decades, I have supported deporting violent criminals, and I have always believed that sanctuary should not be given to felons," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "I have reached out to Governor Brown to ask whether state law was followed in this case, and if so, whether the law needs to be strengthened to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again."

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for Boxer's senate seat in 2016, has been firm on supporting the sanctuary cities policy and called for comprehensive immigration reform to solve such issues of concern.

"Let's not react to one specific case, when we are looking at a national problem," Harris said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "Let's react to that specific case in prosecuting that specific murder, and making sure he faces very swift consequences and accountability. On the issue of immigration policy, let's be smarter.

"We did the legal research and analysis. And here's the law. ... The counties, the sheriffs, the leaders of law enforcement in those counties are not mandated to comply with ICE detainers. It is discretionary. So they don't have to -- they may."


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