Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged San Francisco to commit to participating in the Department of Homeland Security’s new Priority Enforcement Program, which focuses federal immigration enforcement efforts on convicted criminals and public safety threats. Feinstein also released the following statement:

“I have been looking into the circumstances related to the tragic killing of Kathryn Steinle. The suspect has been convicted of 10 crimes, including four drug felonies, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had filed what is known as a detainer asking the San Francisco Sheriff's Department to hold Mr. Sanchez for deportation. The Sheriff’s Department failed to respond to that detainer and did not notify ICE when the individual was released.

“I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released. We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am looking at whether additional federal legislation may be necessary.

“I have written a letter to Mayor Lee suggesting he participate in DHS’s Priority Enforcement Program, as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to do in a recently adopted resolution. This program will enable federal law enforcement to better cooperate with state and local counterparts to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before they are released.”

Text of Feinstein’s letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee follows:

July 7, 2015

The Honorable Ed Lee
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Mayor Lee:

I write today to express my deep concern about the release of convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an action that led to last week’s tragic death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco. I urge you to take immediate action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again by joining DHS’s Priority Enforcement Program that facilitates the removal of dangerous criminal aliens.

Mr. Sanchez has been convicted of 10 crimes, four of which were drug felonies including heroin possession and narcotics manufacturing. He was also convicted three times for illegal reentry after deportation from the United States.

Rather than allowing ICE to remove Mr. Sanchez from the country, my understanding is that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department requested that Mr. Sanchez be transferred from federal custody to Sheriff’s Department’s custody on a 20-year-old arrest warrant. Then, less than three weeks after that transfer, Mr. Sanchez was released from custody without regard to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request and without notifying ICE that he was being released.

The tragic death of Ms. Steinle could have been avoided if the Sheriff’s Department had notified ICE prior to the release of Mr. Sanchez, which would have allowed ICE to remove him from the country.

A solution to this problem would be San Francisco’s participation in ICE’s “Priority Enforcement Program,” known as PEP. Attached is a DHS memorandum “Secure Communities” that outlines the Priority Enforcement Program, created as part of President Obama’s November 20, 2014, executive actions on immigration.

As detailed in the enclosed ICE document, PEP “enables DHS to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before those individuals are released into our communities… PEP focuses on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety.”

By agreeing to participate in the Priority Enforcement Program, San Francisco would provide notice to ICE before releasing aliens with long criminal records, such as Mr. Sanchez, upon request from ICE. The types of crimes that would result in an alien being a top priority for removal under PEP are outlined in the attached DHS memorandum titled “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.”

Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution requesting that the L.A. County Sheriff “continue cooperating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in implementing the President’s Priority Enforcement Program.” I strongly encourage San Francisco to participate in this program.

We need to do all we can to ensure dangerous criminals are not released into our communities. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.


Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Additional materials:

DHS memo re: Secure Communities, November 20, 2014

DHS memo re: Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants, November 20, 2014 

Priority Enforcement Program Brochure