Oct 20 2015
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today entered remarks into the Congressional Record outlining her opposition to legislation introduced by Senator David Vitter to cut funding to communities that do not comply with all notification and detention requests from federal immigration authorities.
“Local law enforcement agencies should be required to notify federal authorities—if such notification is requested—that they plan to release a dangerous individual, such as a convicted felon,” said Senator Feinstein. “This is a reasonable solution that would target those criminals who shouldn’t be released back onto the street.
Feinstein continued: “While I do support mandatory communication between local, state and federal officials, I do not support the bill before us today. The bill we’ll soon be voting on would target all undocumented immigrants for deportation. It would divert already-stretched local law enforcement resources away from dangerous criminals and from policing in their own communities. I do not support such an action.”
The full text of her remarks is below:
“Two women, Kate Steinle and Marilyn Pharis, were killed in California over the summer, both allegedly by undocumented individuals with criminal records.
The suspect in each case had recently been released from local custody without notice to federal immigration officials, which could have resulted in those individuals being removed from the country instead of being released.
I believe these murders could have been prevented if there were open channels of communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities about dangerous individuals.
In both cases, those lines of communication broke down, and two women died.
In my view, local law enforcement agencies should be required to notify federal authorities—if such notification is requested—that they plan to release a dangerous individual, such as a convicted felon.
This is a reasonable solution that would target those criminals who shouldn’t be released back onto the street.
While I do support mandatory communication between local, state and federal officials, I do not support the bill before us today.
The bill we’ll soon be voting on would target all undocumented immigrants for deportation.
It would divert already-stretched local law enforcement resources away from dangerous criminals and from policing in their own communities. I do not support such an action.
This bill also includes a detention requirement that goes beyond dangerous individuals – it would cover any immigrant sought to be detained.
This is a standard that could be abused in another Administration, and it is potentially a huge unfunded mandate to impose on states and localities.
In addition to being an unfunded mandate, the bill would make drastic cuts to police departments, sheriffs’ departments and local community programs.
Specifically it would cut the COPS Hiring program, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (known as SCAAP), and the Community Development Block Grant program.
Last year, 21 California jurisdictions received $13.2 million in COPS hiring grants to hire police officers.
California also received $57 million in SCAAP funds to help cover costs of holding undocumented immigrants.
And California communities received $356.9 million under the Community Development Block Grant program.
As a former mayor, I know how important these funds are to local communities.
The bill would also impose lengthy federal prison sentences on all undocumented immigrants.
This would include mothers crossing the border to see their children.
It would include agricultural workers who are vital to California’s economy.
It would include other essentially innocent individuals who simply want to make a better life for themselves and their families.
In my view, this goes much too far, and I cannot support it.
I would, however, like to talk further about the murders of Kate Steinle and Marilyn Pharis, and what I believe should be done to protect public safety.
Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman, was shot and killed in July while walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father.
The suspected shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had a long criminal record.
He had seven felony convictions, including one for possession of heroin and another for manufacturing narcotics.
He had also been removed from the country five times.
The chain of events that led to Kate’s murder began on March 23, when San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi requested that Lopez-Sanchez be transferred from federal prison to San Francisco.
The Sheriff’s request was based on a 20-year-old marijuana possession warrant.
On March 26, Lopez-Sanchez was booked into San Francisco county jail.
However, the 20-year-old marijuana charge was quickly dropped, and Lopez-Sanchez was later released.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had asked Sheriff Mirkarimi to let the agency know when Lopez-Sanchez would be released. That did not happen.
A simple phone call would have been enough, but Sheriff Mirkarimi failed to notify federal officials.
In July, only a few months after his release, Lopez-Sanchez shot and killed Kate Steinle.
In fact, not only did the Sheriff fail to notify – the failure was a consequence of a deliberate policy.
Just weeks before his office requested the transfer of Lopez-Sanchez, the Sheriff adopted a policy forbidding his own deputies from notifying immigration officials.
The policy specifically states that Sheriff Department staff shall not provide release dates or times to immigration authorities.
Let me be clear: this isn’t state law or even San Francisco law. This is the sheriff’s own policy.
I believe this policy is wrong, and I have called on the sheriff to change it. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has made the same request.
On July 24, Marilyn Pharis was brutally attacked with a hammer and sexually assaulted in her home by two suspects.
The 64-year-old Air Force veteran died in the hospital from her injuries a week later.
One of the individuals charged with this heinous crime is a 20-year-old U.S. citizen named Jose Fernando Villagomez.
The other is a 29-year-old undocumented immigrant named Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez.
According to ICE, Martinez Ramirez was arrested in May 2014, but he had no prior felony convictions or deportations.
He was subject to what is called an ICE detainer request, asking the local jurisdiction to hold him until ICE could pick him up.
The local jurisdiction did not hold the suspect nor did they notify ICE of his release.
In the ensuing months, Martinez-Ramirez accumulated multiple misdemeanor convictions, including possession of methamphetamine and battery.
One of his convictions included a protection order requiring him to stay away from a particular individual.
On July 20, he pleaded guilty to additional misdemeanor charges of possessing a dagger and drug paraphernalia.
He was sentenced to 30 days, but that wasn’t to begin until October 31. He was released from custody, and four days later allegedly attacked, raped and killed Marilyn Pharis in her own home.
I believe these two cases demonstrate the need for better communication between local, state and federal authorities before a dangerous individual with a criminal record is released.
When our committee was set to mark-up an earlier bill from Senator Vitter, I prepared a simple amendment to ensure such communication happens. That markup was cancelled.
I’d like to describe this approach now.
First, it would require notification by a state or local agency of the impending release of certain dangerous individuals, if ICE requests such notification.
It would apply to individuals where there is probable cause to believe they are aliens who are removable from the country and who pose a threat to the community.
Immigration offenses would be covered only if the individual had actually received more than one year in prison, which would happen for a person with a significant criminal history.
The amendment I prepared would not include harmful cuts to law enforcement and community programs, which I believe are unnecessary and unwise.
The legal precedents from the Supreme Court show that Congress can impose a reporting requirement on a state or local government, without threatening harmful funding cuts.
That is the approach I would take – I believe it would protect public safety without harming otherwise law-abiding immigrants or state or local law enforcement.
Before I conclude, I’d like to remind my colleagues that this is not a choice between being pro-immigrant or pro-criminal.
I am pro-immigrant. Immigrants make a tremendous contribution to this country and to my state.
They work some of the most difficult jobs, from agriculture to construction to hospitality. They are part of the fabric of our country.
I myself am the daughter of an immigrant.
I strongly support comprehensive immigration reform, which I think is the only long-term solution to many of these problems.
I also support the president’s executive actions to eliminate the threat of deportation for young people who have been raised here, as well as the parents of American citizens.
And I agree with immigrant advocates who want to prevent families from being separated because of a minor infraction like a broken taillight.
The position I support strikes a balance.
It would keep dangerous individuals off the street, while protecting otherwise law-abiding immigrants who are just here to work and provide their children with a better future.
I believe the deaths of Kate Steinle and Marilyn Pharis could have been prevented.
I believe we can, and should, fix the problems that led to their deaths by requiring that local officials notify federal officials before they release dangerous criminals, if asked to do so.
I oppose Senator Vitter’s bill, which would sweep up otherwise law-abiding immigrants and divert resources away from where they’re most needed.
We should focus our efforts on dangerous criminals, and I hope that when we again take up comprehensive immigration reform, that’s what happens.”