To the Editor:
The shooting earlier this month of Kathryn Steinle in broad daylight on a popular pedestrian pier in San Francisco has become a matter of national debate. Kathryn’s murderer was an illegal immigrant and seven-time felon who had previously been deported from the United States five times. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez was on his way to a sixth deportation earlier this year, but was instead sent from prison to San Francisco at the request of the Sheriff’s Department to face prosecution in a 1995 drug case. Local prosecutors, however, dropped the drug charge without notice to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and released Lopez-Sanchez onto the streets of San Francisco where he would murder Kathryn Steinle.
In a TV jailhouse interview after his arrest for the murder, Lopez-Sanchez admitted killing Steinle and said 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 a “sanctuary” plan, barring police from enforcing immigration laws and from cooperating with ICE officials. 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 outcome of misguided “progressive” policies and the potential deadly consequences of such a sanctuary scheme to law-abiding Americans.
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 threat to public safety and should be deported. As it now stands, the message is muddled.
I keenly appreciate the value and talents immigrants bring to our country. I also agree that our federal immigration policies need to be reformed, but this must be done at the national level, not by municipalities which can wind up sending the wrong message to individuals who would endanger the safety of our communities. “Feel-good” public policy at the local level can have unintended consequences, in the San Francisco instance, the loss of an innocent life and a national backlash which can in the end impact negatively on immigrant communities.
Chairman, Princeton Republican Committee