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July 07, 2015

Felon accused of S.F. pier homicide heads to court

A convicted felon who had been deported five times from the United States to Mexico is set to appear in a San Francisco court on Tuesday over a deadly shooting that has spawned passionate debate about the city's immigration policies.

Francisco Sanchez, 45, was charged with murder on Monday for last week's shooting of Kathryn Steinle, 32. The case drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump used the killing to decry U.S.-Mexico border security.

The incident also highlighted the long-standing "sanctuary city" policy in San Francisco, one of dozens of U.S. cities that limit the assistance they provide to federal immigration authorities aiming to apprehend or deport individuals.

Such laws were rooted in shielding Central and Southern American refugees from deportation in the 1980s.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Monday defended the policy as allowing immigrant families to access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities, not as a shield for violent criminals. He also called on local and federal authorities to review their actions leading up to Sanchez's release.

Immigration officials said Sanchez was released from federal prison in March after a felony re-entry conviction. He was transferred to the custody of the San Francisco County Sheriff's Office on a drug arrest warrant and federal officials asked to be notified prior to his release.

The sheriff's office said the charges were dismissed and since there was no active warrant or judicial order for Sanchez's removal, the city's policy deemed Sanchez "ineligible for extended detention" and he was freed.

Sanchez's criminal history includes seven felony convictions, and he has been deported to Mexico five times, immigration officials said.