Wednesday San Francisco News Roundup
Activists Rally for Immigrant Rights Following National Anti-Immigration Sentiments
Dozens of protesters gathered in San Francisco Tuesday to identify solutions in response to anti-immigration sentiments spurred by the shooting death of a woman on July 1 on a San Francisco pier allegedly by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico with a history of felony convictions and who had been deported five times after repeatedly entering the U.S. illegally.
Immigration rights activists gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall holding flowers and singing songs in the memory of 32-year-old San Francisco resident and Pleasanton native Kathryn “Kate” Steinle, who was fatally shot while walking on Pier 14 near the San Francisco Ferry Building with family members in broad daylight.
Within an hour of the shooting police had arrested Juan Francisco
Lopez-Sanchez in connection with the homicide.
Immigrant rights activists said that Lopez-Sanchez does not represent U.S. immigrants, but instead represents someone with potential mental health issues who did not receive the help he needed.
Lopez-Sanchez was convicted of seven prior felonies, including four involving narcotics, according to immigration officials.
Due to San Francisco’s 1989 “sanctuary city” policy that prohibits
law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer when they would otherwise be eligible for release from custody, Lopez-Sanchez was not handed over to immigration officials for what would have been his sixth deportation. Instead he was released onto the streets of San Francisco.
Less than two months after his release from San Francisco County Jail, Lopez-Sanchez was arrested in connection with Steinle’s death.
Following the homicide, a national debate was spurred over which
agency or individual was responsible for his release. Various agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were blamed for failing to obtain a court order placing Lopez-Sanchez in custody.
Others have blamed San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who maintains that he was simply following city laws when he decided not to hand Lopez-Sanchez over to immigration authorities.
Others, such as Fox News’ conservative political commentator Bill
O’Reilly, are blaming the country’s lax border control for Steinle’s death.
O’Reilly is also calling for the creation of “Kate’s Law,” which
he described as a mandatory five-year sentence in a federal penitentiary upon conviction of undocumented immigrants who are deported and then return to the U.S.
O’Reilly has begun a petition urging Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner to pass “Kate’s Law.”
Steinle’s parents have also spoken in favor of such a law.
At Tuesday’s rally, activists expressed concern that Steinle’s death was the result of a failure to provide those in need with access to substance abuse programs and mental health assistance, as well as lax gun control laws.
Numerous activists said they felt the homicide represents the presence of violent crime in the community and highlights a larger issue that has little to do with immigration.
Bill Ong Hick, a law professor at the University of San Francisco
and the founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said that he doesn’t believe the city’s policies were at fault.
In fact, Hick praised the sanctuary city law and the due process law, explaining that those laws were designed to address public safety and help undocumented immigrants trust law enforcement officials.
Hick said having mandatory sentences “doesn’t accomplish anything” and that the law proposed by O’Reilly will not solve the immigration issue.
“We do share the blame for what happened because we are not fighting enough,” Hick said, adding that he feels the public should demand more substance abuse programs and stricter gun control laws.
San Francisco supervisors David Campos and John Avalos were among the elected officials who attended the rally, where many people spoke about the importance of separating the crime from immigration and the behavior of the accused criminal from the behavior of all immigrants.
According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants are
actually less likely to be criminals than native-born persons.
As the number of foreign-born persons in the U.S. grew from 1990
to 2013, the U.S. violent crime rate during that time was cut in half, according to the council
Family of 6-Year-Old Girl Killed by Uber Driver Settles Lawsuit
The family of a 6-year-old girl who was struck and killed by an Uber driver in 2013 settled a lawsuit against the ride-for-hire company Monday, according to court documents.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the filings in San Francisco Superior Court, citing the privacy of Sofia Liu’s brother.
“The Lius suffered a terrible tragedy — and our hearts go out to them,” Uber officials wrote in a statement. “While we cannot ease their pain, we do hope that this settlement helps the family move forward.”
The suit named Uber and the driver, identified as Syed Muzzafar, as defendants.
The family alleged that Muzzafar was using the Uber app and had been looking for rides when he hit Sofia as she crossed the street with her mother and brother in a crosswalk at the corner of Polk and Ellis streets at about 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013.
Uber deactivated Muzzafar’s account after the accident and said he was not carrying a passenger and was therefore not working for the company at the time.
But amid widespread criticism over its response to Sofia’s death
and questions about its insurance policies, a few months later the company announced it would cover drivers who had the app activated but had not yet accepted a ride.
Despite changing the company’s official policy, Uber continued to
argue in court it was not liable for Sofia’s death.
The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, argued that even the company’s
new $100,000 injury policy for drivers who had not accepted a ride was insufficient as Sofia’s mother was also injured that night and racked up $500,000 in medical bills.
Muzzafar was eventually charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and is scheduled to return to court for a status update in August.
Gun Control Reforms Introduced, Includes Videotaping Sales and Sharing Data with SFPD
San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced gun control reforms Tuesday that include the videotaping of all gun and ammunition sales in San Francisco and requires firearm dealers to regularly share ammunition sales data with the San Francisco Police Department.
Farrell said he believes that despite the city having some of the
strictest gun laws in the country, access to guns and ammunition remains easy and contributes to “senseless violent crime here in San Francisco and across the country.”
He maintains that gaps exist in federal, state, and local regulatory oversight of firearms dealers and ammunition sellers and that his proposed reforms will ensure illegal trafficking of weapons and ammunition by firearm dealers and their employees doesn’t go undetected.
Additionally, Farrell said the reforms aim to prevent the theft of
firearms and ammunition from dealers and to detect the sale of firearms and ammunition to individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing them.
Farrell’s gun control package also requires the dealer to electronically transmit information about their ammunition sales to police on a weekly basis and then hold onto those records for up to five years.
The data would include the date of the transaction as well as the
name, address and date of birth of the buyer. A driver’s license or other government issued identification card would also be documented, along with details about the firearm or ammunition purchased.
Farrell said that some California jurisdictions already have similar ordinances, but that San Francisco currently lacks such a law.
The supervisor also noted today that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is severely understaffed and can’t provide the needed oversight of the firearm industry.
He said that by providing local law enforcement video records of gun sales, it could prevent crime and help complete investigations.
Today’s Weather Forecast
Today will be cloudy in the morning with patchy fog before skies
begin to clear. Highs will be in the 60s to lower 70s. Southwest winds could reach 15 to 20 mph by the afternoon.
Tonight will see clear skies before widespread cloudy skies and fog roll in. Lows will be in the upper 50s and southwest winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
Thursday will be cloudy in the morning with patchy fog. Highs will
be in the 60s to lower 70s and southwest winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.