Mayor Ed Lee defends sanctuary city policy following deadly Pier 14 shooting

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee once again pointed the finger of blame at Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi over this month's deadly shooting on Pier 14.

Mayor Lee addressed the Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon, saying it wasn't the city's sanctuary policy that needs changing, but the Sheriff's own policy of not communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Our sanctuary policy was never created to be a safe haven for criminals who tear our community apart," Lee said. "It does not protect criminals." Then he blasted Sheriff Mirkarimi's policy of not communicating with ICE. "This policy is a threat to public safety," Lee told the Board of Supervisors. "This policy should be rescinded immediately."

But some legal experts say it is not possible to exclude people getting out of jail from the sanctuary policy.

The harsh words come on a day when immigration rights supporters gathered for a rally outside San Francisco City Hall, saying prayers for Pier 14 shooting victim Kate Steinle, and calling for toned down rhetoric in the debate over the city's sanctuary policy. "To be able to hold a civil, rational dialogue. To identify real rational solutions," one of the speakers told the crowd of more than 100 people gathered. "None of us want this tragedy to happen again."

"It's important for us to not let the actions of one individual define an entire community," said Supervisor David Campos.

"As tragic and horrible as this is, let's also have a balanced perspective." Campos asserted that San Francisco's sanctuary policy makes the city safer because it allows undocumented immigrants who are crime victims or have information about a crime to come forward without fear of deportation.

"When they're afraid to come forward because they're afraid law enforcement has become an arm of immigration," explained Campos, "that's something that hurts all of us."

"As hard as it may be... for some observers to accept, it wasn't the San Francisco policy that was at fault here," USF law professor Dr. Bill Hing told the rally. Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus said the sanctuary policy in San Francisco and more than two hundred other communities doesn't prevent ICE from doing their job. "And in this case they didn't' do their job obtaining a valid warrant," Chan said.

KTVU contacted Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's office Tuesday for comment about the Steinle family's and Mayor's recent criticism. His office only said they were "checking his availability".