Spinal Column: Michigan must stop harboring dangerous criminals in sanctuary cities

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Last month a young woman was gunned down while walking with her father along a San Francisco pier. Senseless violence in America unfortunately is all too common, and this event might have gone unnoticed nationally, except for one cold fact: This murder could — and should — have been prevented.

That’s because Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the confessed killer of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, is an illegal alien and a seven-time felon who has been deported five times and should not have been anywhere near that pier. Instead, he should have been in federal custody.

San Francisco, along with numerous other cities nationwide, is a sanctuary city. Sanctuary cities prevent local employees from notifying federal authorities of illegal aliens living in their communities.

In late March, Lopez-Sanchez was being held in a federal prison in southern California and was scheduled for release to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. But before his release date arrived, federal officials at the prison shipped him north to San Francisco, where he was wanted on a drug warrant.

After Lopez-Sanchez arrived in San Francisco, ICE requested that the city notify the agency before releasing him. After the San Francisco district attorney declined to prosecute on the drug charge, the city released Lopez-Sanchez on April 15 — without notifying ICE.

Eleven weeks later, Kate Steinle was dead.

By any reasonable standard, San Francisco officials should have respected the rule of law and informed ICE of Lopez-Sanchez’s release. If they had done so, Kate Steinle would be with us today.

As a state senator, I can’t do anything about San Francisco’s designation as a sanctuary city.

But I will do everything I can to put an end to sanctuary city laws in Michigan so a similar tragedy doesn’t occur here.

I am strongly opposed to any Michigan cities violating the laws of America and providing safe havens for murderers, drug dealers and other criminals.

That is why I have introduced Senate Bill 445, which would prohibit local units of government in Michigan from enacting or enforcing sanctuary city laws and prohibit any state funding or other resources from going to sanctuary cities.

I have also set up an online petition, www.signtostop.com, calling for the prohibition of sanctuary cities in the state. Thousands of Michiganders have signed the petition calling for an end to sanctuary cities. I am encouraged by the response and I urge all Michiganders to sign.

Eliminating the threat of sanctuary cities in Michigan is important, but it also is important to support efforts underway to welcome skilled legal immigrants to Michigan.

I am from a family of immigrants who came to America legally to pursue the American dream and live under our laws. Successful companies like Dow and Meijer were created by legal immigrants, and it is vital to recognize that in just the past decade alone, more than 30 percent of high-tech businesses created in Michigan were created by immigrants.

We need to make sure that vital workers in the agriculture and tourism sectors come to our state legally. Programs encouraging foreign students to receive education and training from Michigan universities should continue, and we must do all we can to keep those individuals here in Michigan after they graduate.

In addition, I support the proposed expansion of certain employment-based visas for skilled legal immigrants and workers. There are five types of special visas that permit a non-citizen to be a legal guest and earn employment-based permanent residency.

Legal immigration is a wonderful blessing to our nation. We must never forget that immigration is not the problem. The problem is an unashamed contempt for the law, which allows illegal aliens and felons to run free. We must put an end to that contempt and to sanctuary city laws in Michigan.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.