On Wednesday, July 1 a young woman named Kathryn Steinle was shot in the chest in broad daylight on a popular pedestrian pier in San Francisco as she walked with her father and a friend. She collapsed in her father’s arms begging for his help and died several hours later in a hospital. Her brother described her as “the most wonderful, loving person.” Kathryn’s murderer was Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal Mexican immigrant and seven-time felon who had been previously deported from the United States no less than five times.
Lopez-Sanchez was on his way to a sixth deportation earlier this year, records show, but was instead sent to San Francisco at the request of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to face prosecution in a 1995 drug case. Lopez-Sanchez was picked up from the federal Bureau of Prisons by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on March 26. Local prosecutors, however, dropped the drug charge the next day at which point Lopez-Sanchez should have been handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on a request to hold him for deportation when San Francisco was done with him. But, instead, the Sheriff released Lopez-Sanchez in April onto the streets of San Francisco where he would murder Kathryn Steinle a few months later. San Francisco officials shrugged off the tragic consequence of its action and deflected responsibility elsewhere.
The reason for the release? San Francisco has a “sanctuary city” law that actually directs law enforcement to ignore federal immigration laws. After his arrest for the murder, Lopez-Sanchez, in a jailhouse interview with San Francisco’s KGO-TV in which he admitted killing Steinle, said that he knew San Francisco was a sanctuary city where he would not be pursued by immigration officials.
Sound familiar? It should, because less than two years ago, Democrats on Princeton Council proposed just such a plan for our town, barring police from enforcing immigration laws and from cooperating with ICE officials. At the time, Councilwoman Heather Howard summed up the Council’s reasoning by saying that local police cooperation with ICE would be “detrimental to both public safety and the peace of mind of Princeton’s growing immigrant community.” Cities such as San Francisco were held up as models of immigration reform. Yet today, we witness the dark and tragic side of such misguided “progressive” policies: a beautiful, innocent young life has been tragically taken as a result and the potential deadly consequences of such a sanctuary scheme to law-abiding Americans has been overlooked.
In the aftermath of the San Francisco tragedy, from the politically correct bubble in which Princeton politicians operate, Mayor Liz Lempert doubled down on Princeton’s status as a “sanctuary city.” Rather than an apologia, the public would have been better served by a straightforward statement by the Mayor that Princeton will not be a safe haven for alien criminals who constitute a real threat to public safety and should be deported.
As it stands, the message is muddled. Is Princeton’s self-proclaimed status as a “sanctuary” just a political slogan in a situation where standard police law enforcement precepts are being followed or is it something else? Princeton officials need to define exactly what is meant by sanctuary and sanctuary from what.
Having spent my professional career in the U.S. Department of State (mostly in Latin America) interviewing and processing hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, qualified immigrants and refugees for entry into the United States (as well as having an immigrant father), I keenly appreciate the value and talents immigrants bring to our country. I also agree that our federal immigration policies urgently need to be reformed, but this must be done at the national level, not by municipalities that can wind-up sending the wrong message to individuals who would endanger the safety of our communities.
Chairman, Princeton Republican Committee