SACRAMENTO (AP) — Seeking to prevent another tragedy like the July killing of a woman on a San Francisco pier, Republican state lawmakers on Wednesday proposed legislation that would prevent California cities from accepting federal transfers of immigrant prisoners unless local prosecutors commit to pursuing felony charges.
The killing of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle touched off a national conversation about immigration policy and so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to hold suspects wanted on lesser charges.
The man charged, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, had been deported five times, most recently in 2009, and had seven felony convictions, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was on the streets after San Francisco officials disregarded a request from federal immigration authorities to keep him in custody. Lopez Sanchez was wanted in the city in an old drug possession case that prosecutors later said was not worth pursuing.
SB 57 by Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, and Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, would require that police confirm that prosecutors will pursue a felony charge before allowing a detainee to be released to a city or county from federal detention.
Suspects who are not released from federal custody after their sentence face deportation.
“We had a horrible case where somebody slipped through the cracks,” Huff said in an interview. “We don’t want that to happen again.”
The Republican lawmakers face a steep hurdle in pushing their legislation through the Democratically controlled Legislature. The bill will require a two-thirds vote in both houses because the lawmakers are trying to push it through so quickly.
Runner said she has been working with Steinle’s mother on the proposal and hopes to have support from Democrats.
“We want to get this on the books as soon as possible,” she said.
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