Email this morning from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department…
On July 1, as Kate Steinle walked with her father in the Embarcadero District of San Francisco, she was fatally struck in the chest by gunfire. She was 32 years old. Within hours, police arrested Francisco Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant, who had been repeatedly deported from the U.S. Shortly before he shot his victim he had been released from the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff on local charges. His release from jail–and not to ICE authorities–has prompted debate over the enforcement of immigration laws and over San Francisco’s self-proclaimed status as a sanctuary city.
In the wake of Kate Steinle’s death, Congress conducted hearings on proposed new laws and has scheduled additional hearings. The position of San Francisco authorities has raised questions about policies nationwide, including California’s 57 other counties. You should know what we do in San Diego County.
Our approach is much different than that of San Francisco. San Diego is not a sanctuary county; if these same circumstances had played out in our jurisdiction, there would have been a different outcome. National leaders would not be pondering major policy changes under the cloud of this tragic killing because Kate Steinle would probably still be alive.
In this department we recognize that federal immigration law governs legal and illegal immigration into the United States, including how long people who are not U.S. citizens can stay and when they are required to leave. Officials with federal immigration agencies, principally Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have primary responsibility for the enforcement of immigration laws in San Diego County. Significantly, this includes determining the immigration status of inmates in our county jail facilities. It should be noted that ICE officials have been stationed in our booking facilities for well over a decade.
All individuals booked into a San Diego Sheriff’s Department jail facility have their fingerprints checked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s biometric system to determine their immigration record. If the fingerprints match those of someone in DHS’s biometric system, officials at ICE are automatically notified. ICE is then responsible for evaluating each case to determine the individual’s immigration status and determining the appropriate enforcement action.
When ICE officials wish to take custody of an inmate in the San Diego County jail, the Sheriff’s Department provides the date, time and place of his or her release so that an ICE agent can take custody of the inmate in our facility–before the inmate’s release from custody. A recent Federal Court order in Oregon and California law severely restricts the Sheriff’s Department’s ability to detain inmates beyond their release date unless there is a federal warrant or other court order. That is why it is critical that we work closely with ICE officials in advance of an inmate’s release date.
This approach does not put sheriff’s deputies in the position of enforcing federal immigration laws and it abides by state law. At the same time it facilitates the enforcement of federal law and, most significantly, protects the people of San Diego County, recognizing our unique responsibilities and inherent risks as a border county.
As you know, we are committed to information led policing as a strategy to reduce and prevent crime. Coordination with our federal partners plays a critical role in the ILP strategy because it helps identify those who threaten the safety and security of our communities–regardless of their country of origin.
We will continue to monitor the national debate on immigration enforcement and reform. In the meantime, we will also continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to protect the lives and property of San Diego County residents.
Thank you for all you do.
Bill Gore, Sheriff