WASHINGTON – The senseless killing of Kathryn Steinle by Francisco Sanchez, a Mexican illegal immigrant with a long criminal history, stunned America. 32-year-old Kathryn was simply taking a walk with her dad in San Francisco. Sanchez, for unknown reasons, shot her and killed her.
Illegal immigrants come back
Sadly, this is not just another homicide. This killing highlights the tangled mess of American immigration policies and selective enforcement. In an ideal world, Sanchez, an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record, should not have been in the USA. Or he should have been in a US jail.
Well, then how is it possible that he was freely walking around in San Francisco?
We know that many people from Mexico and Central America manage to cross the US border illegally. What is worse, many of those who are apprehended and sent back simply turn around and try again, multiple times. And this is because essentially there is no penalty for illegally crossing the border.
If this were not enough, many US municipalities declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities”. This means that illegal immigrants who settle there are welcome. No one will ask them questions about their immigration status. The local authorities will not arrest them and turn them over to the US immigration authorities.
The original purpose of creating “sanctuary cities” was to allow illegal immigrants living there to come forward and cooperate with local law enforcement in cases of crimes affecting their communities, without fear of revealing their status, this way facing deportation.
Well, may be this was a good idea. But now sanctuary cities have become magnets for more and more illegal aliens.
So, here you have it. We have a porous border that allows illegal immigrants to get into the United States. And then you have many cities, including San Francisco, that provide safe haven to those who go there.
This is bad. America is a country of laws. The fact that the Federal Government does nothing when City Councils and Mayors enact provisions that protect and in a sense encourage illegal immigration sends a horrible message of confusion, weakness and eventually lawlessness.
Illegal immigrants with felony convictions
But wait, it gets worse, much worse. Francisco Sanchez, the man who killed Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, has a long record of arrests and felony convictions on drug charges, here in the US. He was arrested, convicted and deported several times.
And –guess what– each time he came back.
This time, Sanchez purposely went to San Francisco in full knowledge of the sanctuary policy of the city. And then, (prior to the murder), while he was caught by the federal authorities, he fell through the cracks of unclear provisions and conflicting jurisdictions that, according to the San Francisco police, included improperly crafted instructions they received from the federal immigration authorities.
With a straight face, the San Francisco police claim that they could not hold an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions because they had no legal ground to do so. This looks incredible, and in fact incomprehensible. But, technically speaking, they may be right.
Unusual but not unique story
The story of Francisco Sanchez and Kathryn’s tragic death may be unusual. But it is not unique. Among the many illegal immigrants who manage to slip through and settle in a sanctuary city there are criminals. Certainly they are not a majority. But they are there. And, on occasion, they commit violent crimes.
The senseless murder of a young woman who was just taking a walk with her father encouraged emotional reactions, including new federal laws that will punish “sanctuary cities”. But this is mostly noise.
Serious immigration reform
The real issue is that America’s immigration policy is broken. It is a monumental mess that needs to be fixed. As a minimum, we need to:
1) Secure all our borders. People with no visas or other legal permits will not get through. No exceptions;
2) Prioritize the legal immigrants that we want to have, and this should include highly educated people who can contribute to our economy;
3) Create a robust guest workers visa program that will take care of seasonal workers who come to America to be employed in agriculture and other non permanent occupations;
4) Offer a realistic path to legalization to the millions of law-abiding illegal immigrants who are already here and who have not broken laws, (except for the immigration laws).
Political paralysis in Washington
This is complicated. But not impossible. Those who oppose reform (mostly conservative Republicans) affirm that all the illegal aliens should be deported –that’s about 11 to 12 million people. (This would be un unprecedented undertaking, a monumental effort that would cause national chaos).
They also maintain that any path to legalization amounts to “amnesty”. And amnesty would send the message that there will be more amnesties in the future, therefore encouraging more illegal entries, and so forth.
This political paralysis in Washington is most unfortunate. Because of outdated laws, we have unclear priorities, provisions that are not enforced, local initiatives that go against federal laws, and conflicting jurisdictions.
This is a real mess.
The senseless death of Kathryn Steinle is a sad example of what happens and may happen again when illegal immigrants who are also criminals can take full advantage of policy confusion in America, a major, advanced country that lacks the will to pass sensible immigration reform.