The killing last week of a woman who grew up in Pleasanton has revived the debate over so-called "sanctuary" cities and whether they help or hinder public safety.
San Francisco police arrested Francisco Sanchez, 45, Thursday on suspicion of shooting 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who grew up in Pleasanton and graduated from Amador Valley High. Steinle had been on Pier 14 with her father when she was shot and killed.
Sanchez had been held earlier in the year in San Francisco jail but was released due to the city's "sanctuary" policy, which limits officers' inquiries into individuals' immigration statuses. He had also been deported to Mexico five times, most recently in 2009, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In jailhouse interviews over the weekend, Sanchez told several TV outlets that he found a gun wrapped in a T-shirt, and it went off when he picked up the gun.
San Francisco is one of several sanctuary cities in California. San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles and Fresno also prohibit local officials from inquiring about felons' immigration statuses or from detaining them solely based on that fact.
San Francisco became a sanctuary city in 1989 after a voter-approved ordinance.
Cities started calling themselves sanctuary cities in the 1980s as a way to aid refugees from Central America running from civil wars, according to Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis law school.
San Francisco's policy limits the detention of undocumented immigrants and officers' interaction with immigration authorities, Johnson said in an email interview.
"The purposes of these policies is effective law enforcement and the belief that immigrants are more likely to cooperate with police if they are not likely to be deported by cooperating with them," he said.
Johnson said many police chiefs and officers think sanctuary policies help combat crime by making it easier for victims who are undocumented to trust officers. On the other hand, he said, it sometimes prevents criminals "who should be removed from being removed" from cities.
The city's sanctuary policy has been in the public eye before. In 2008, a member of an El Salvadorian street gang shot a father and his two sons in the Excelsior district of San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported at that time. Some people pointed to the sanctuary policy as a reason the gang member hadn't been deported before the shooting.
Steinle's family has set up a GoFundMe.com account for donations to her favorite charities.