Pier 14 shooting revives questions surrounding sanctuary city policies

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- The laws are varied when it comes to dictating how much cooperation can happen between state and local officials in regards to sanctuary cities, but an attorney for one San Francisco family says the Pier 14 shooting is history repeating itself.

Michael Kelly was one of the lawyers representing the family of Tony Bologna, a father shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant in a case of mistaken identity in 2008.

"Their lives will never be the same," Kelly said of the widow and two surviving children of Bologna, who was shot and killed while stopped in traffic. Bologna’s three teenage sons were in the car with him. Two were also shot and killed, while the third son hid in the back of the car during the shooting and survived.

The shooter, Edwin Ramos, was an undocumented immigrant and suspected gang member, who was on probation at the time of the shooting, but had not been deported. 

Under a San Francisco ordinance, only people wanted for violent felonies can be turned over to immigration officials. Even then, the Sheriff’s office is allowed to use its discretion when cooperating with ICE.

"That's not the way a democracy works; that we delegate to the sheriff the obligation to decide who's dangerous and who's not," Kelly said.

"We don't want to create reasons or conditions to incarcerate more people and deport people," San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos said of what is referred to as the city’s "Due Process Ordinance for All Civil Immigration Detainers."

Avalos said the shooting of Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 last week was a tragedy, but he doubts it will lead to a drastic change in the city’s policy.

"Just because Donald Trump is thumbing his nose at San Francisco, I don't think that's the reason to do it," Avalos said.

The undocumented immigrant charged with Steinle’s murder, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had seven felony arrests, four for drug offenses, others for re-entering the country illegally after already being deported.

Avalos said Lopez-Sanchez’s criminal history did not meet the criteria for an ICE Civil Detainer.

"We have exceptions for violent drug felonies, but what he had was an arrest, not even a conviction for marijuana possession," Avalos said.

A state law also prohibits county jails from holding undocumented people for ICE unless they're suspected of committing a serious or violent felony. The TRUST Act was passed in 2013.

Even so, some counties have found ways to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

In Alameda County, Sheriff Greg Ahern said ICE agents are given access to their arrest records every day. While the county can't hold undocumented immigrants in its jail for a civil detainer because of state law, Alameda County Sheriffs officials will notify ICE when the person is about to be released.

San Francisco's policy prohibits that level of cooperation.

So does Santa Clara County's policy. When it comes to civil detainer requests from ICE, their policy states: "County personnel shall not expend county time or resources responding to ICE inquiries or communicating with ICE on individuals' incarceration status and release dates."

"No one -- not me or anyone I know -- wants immigration going around on a witch hunt. The problem is, where do you draw the line? How do you define who is it that presents a threat to us?" asked Kelly.

Bologna’s widow sued the City and County of San Francisco for negligence because of the city's Sanctuary policy. They lost the suit, but Kelly said the events of the past week should prompt city leaders to revise the city’s policy.