SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of Kathryn Steinle said Monday in a cable television news interview that they support a proposal to give mandatory prison time to deported people who return to the U.S. illegally.
Steinle, 32, was walking along a waterfront in San Francisco when she was shot by a gun allegedly fired by Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, a Mexican national who was in the country illegally.
Sanchez, 45, who has pleaded not guilty, had been released from jail months before the shooting, despite a federal immigration order asking local authorities to hold him.
Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan, of Pleasanton, California, were interviewed by Fox News talk-show host Bill O’Reilly for a segment scheduled to air Monday on The O’Reilly Factor.
The death of their daughter has fueled a national debate on immigration, with advocates of stricter border control and even some Bay Area Democrats denouncing San Francisco as a city whose immigrant “sanctuary” protections harbor people who are in the country illegally.
Supporters of sanctuary protections have jumped on O’Reilly and others for politicizing the death. They say public safety is improved when immigrants can work with local police without fear of deportation.
Steinle, who was at his daughter’s side when she was shot, and his wife said the proposed “Kate’s Law” would be a good way to keep her memory alive. O’Reilly is collecting signatures for the petition, which would impose a mandatory five years in federal prison for people who are deported and return.
“We feel the federal, state and cities their laws are here to protect us,” Jim Steinle said. “But we feel that this particular set of circumstances and the people involved, the different agencies let us down.”
Federal records show Sanchez had been deported three times before being sentenced to more than five years in federal prison. He had completed another four years in federal prison when he was shipped to San Francisco March 26 on an outstanding 1995 drug charge.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute, given the age of the case and the small amount of marijuana involved.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department released Sanchez on April 15, declining to honor a request by federal immigration authorities to keep Sanchez in custody for 48 hours until they could pick him up for deportation proceedings.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has strenuously defended his decision, saying he was following city law, including a broader 1989 city “sanctuary” law and a more specific 2013 ordinance that applies specifically to federal immigration detainers.