Viewpoint

Obama’s deafening silence on Steinle killing

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is led into the courtroom in San Francisco July 7.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is led into the courtroom in San Francisco July 7. AP

After Trayvon Martin was killed, President Obama was emotional about his death, declaring “this could have been my son.”

After Michael Brown was killed, Obama promised to ensure “justice is done” and declared: “We lost a young man in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.”

After Freddie Gray was killed, Obama walked out to the Rose Garden and declared: “We have some soul-searching to do. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.”

But after Kathryn Steinle was killed July 1, allegedly by an illegal immigrant with seven felony convictions, Obama said nothing.

His silence has been deafening.

Why has Obama been so reticent to speak out? Perhaps it is because any soul-searching in this case would require him to confront the fact that his administration has been releasing tens of thousands of dangerous illegal immigrants with criminal convictions into our communities.

It got little notice, but on May 28, Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, admitted that between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, the Obama administration released “121 unique criminal aliens who had an active (deportation) case and were subsequently charged with homicide-related offenses.”

Think about that: 121 times over the past four years. That is one every 12 days.

In one case, an illegal immigrant and felon named Apolinar Altamirano allegedly gunned down an Arizona convenience store clerk over a pack of cigarettes. Altamirano had been convicted of felony burglary and was in the middle of deportation proceedings. But ICE released him after he posted a $10,000 bond. Asked whether she notified state and local authorities when Altamirano was released, Saldana replied, “ICE does not routinely notify local authorities when a detainee is released on bond from ICE custody.”

ICE also does not routinely notify local authorities when it releases illegal immigrants who are sex offenders. Last month, a Boston Globe investigation found that between 2008 and 2012, ICE released 424 sex offenders into communities across the country, and at least 34 of the 424...were back in jail as of last month.

In 2013, the Obama administration released 36,007 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions – 1,000 of whom were subsequently convicted of other crimes. Last year they released 30,558 such immigrants. According to the House Judiciary Committee, 92 percent were released because of Obama’s policies.

Obama doesn’t want to talk about that.

He also doesn’t want to talk about San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policy. Steinle’s alleged killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, said he knew the city would not turn him over to federal immigration authorities. ICE officials asked San Francisco police to notify them when Lopez-Sanchez was released so they could take him into custody, but San Francisco refused.

Why didn’t Obama condemn the San Francisco police’s refusal to cooperate with his own administration’s request? He calls out local police departments all the time for everything from racial bias to acting “stupidly.” Perhaps it’s because Obama opposes cracking down on “sanctuary city” policies like the one that got Steinle killed.

After Martin, Brown and Gray were killed, Obama had liberal public policy points he wanted to make. In the Steinle case, there are no issues Obama wants to highlight because his administration supports the policies that led to her death.

No wonder Obama is silent.

Marc Thiessen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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