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Prosecutors have charged a Mexican immigrant with murder in the seemingly random shooting death of a woman who was on a waterfront stroll with her father last week in San Francisco.
Authorities said Monday that 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. Sanchez, a repeat drug offender and undocumented immigrant who has been deported five times, was released from jail on April 15 in San Francisco.
The killing vaulted into the presidential race over the weekend, with Republican candidate Donald Trump pointing to it as evidence of his widely criticized comments last month about Mexican immigrants.
“This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately,” Trump said in a statement. Trump's opponent Ted Cruz defended him on "Meet The Press," saying, "I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to fix illegal immigration.”
Steinle’s death has also brought criticism on San Francisco because it disregarded a request from immigration authorities to keep Sanchez locked up. The liberal city is one of dozens across the country that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The city goes so far as to promote itself as a "sanctuary" for people in the country illegally.
In a jailhouse interview with a TV station, Francisco Sanchez, the 45-year-old repeat drug offender arrested in the shooting last Wednesday of Kathryn Steinle, appeared to confirm that he came to the city because of its status as a sanctuary.
"Most of the blame should fall squarely on the shoulders of the San Francisco sheriff, because his department had custody of him and made the choice to let him go without notifying [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement]," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which wants tougher immigration enforcement.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi strongly defended his office's release of Sanchez and pointed the finger back at ICE, saying the federal agency should have issued an arrest warrant for Sanchez. Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying city policy was never intended to protect "repeat, serious and violent felons."
Lee asked for federal and local agencies to review what happened.
Many other San Francisco politicians stayed quiet as mourners held a late Monday morning vigil on the downtown waterfront where Steinle was gunned down.