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Fatal Pier 14 Shooting Reignites Debate Over San Francisco's Sanctuary City Status For Undocumented Immigrants

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The man charged with killing a 32-year-old woman on San Francisco's waterfront is calling national attention to San Francisco's status as a sanctuary city.

It's that status that some say protected the suspect Francisco Sanchez, 45, an undocumented immigrant with a long criminal history.

Sanchez was detained near the Embarcadero shortly after allegedly shooting 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 last Wednesday. Police said Steinle, who had recently moved to San Francisco, suffered a single gunshot wound to her torso and that the shooting appeared to be completely random.

Department of Homeland Security records indicate Sanchez had been previously deported five times, most recently in 2009, according to ICE spokesperson Virgina Kice. His criminal history includes seven prior felony convictions, four involving narcotics charges.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had turned Sanchez over to authorities in San Francisco on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant and asked the city to notify them when he got out, but they did not.

Freya Horne, counsel for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, said Friday that federal detention requests are not sufficient to hold someone. Under the city's sanctuary ordinance, people in the country illegally aren't handed over to immigration officials unless there's a warrant for their arrest.

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee isn't commenting on the case. Neither is Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi who is running for reelection.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported San Francisco being a sanctuary city and is running for U.S. Senate.

"No one in recent history has ever lost an election by being too pro-immigrant," said KPIX Political Analyst Melissa Caen. "It is not a stance that's going to lose you many votes here in San Francisco. For that reason, I don't see any politicians really changing their votes or moving to amend the law in this area."

Tom Ammiano was a supervisor who supported the sanctuary city stance and now considering a run for state office.

As for the victim's family, they say they are devastated and don't want to get involved at this time in a political mess.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is holding a prayer service for Steinle at 10:45 a.m.

Sanchez told KGO-TV Sunday in a mix of Spanish and English that he found a gun wrapped inside a shirt while he was sitting on a bench at the pier and smoking a cigarette.

"So I picked it up and ... it started to fire on its own," Sanchez said, adding that he heard three shots go off.

He appeared confused and sometimes spoke incoherently during the interview, and said he has poor vision and was under the influence of sleeping pills at the time of the shooting.

"All I want to say is that in the courts, I want them to give me the punishment I deserve and get it over with as soon as possible," Sanchez said during the roughly 45-minute interview.

Sanchez said he returned to the U.S. after being deported because he found better-paying jobs in the country than in Mexico.

He is scheduled be arraigned in San Francisco Monday.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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