San Francisco: One Sick Sanctuary City

By Victor Davis Hansen / July 19, 2015 / PJ Media

As is true daily in other sanctuary cities, San Francisco rolled the dice with someone else’s safety, resulting in the murder of Kate Steinle. 

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In this Tuesday, July 7, 2015 file photo, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, right, is lead into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. More than 1,800 immigrants that the federal government wanted to deport were nevertheless released from local jails and later re-arrested for various crimes, according to a government report released Monday, July 13, 2015. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)

The horrific — but likely preventable — death of Kate Steinle at the hands of five-time deported illegal alien and seven-time released felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez should remind us all of the dangerous wages of ignoring the law.

In the upcoming months, the trial of her killer (on parole from Texas authorities and a user of aliases) may well prove a circus of sorts. We will likely hear all sorts of contextualization to explain why either Lopez-Sanchez was not culpable for the shooting, or hardly can be seen as the inevitable result of a quite unhinged policy. Or we will hear that he was just aiming at sea lions and simply missed with one of his three shots. Indeed, already the ubiquitous and often shameless Rep. Gutierrez has scoffed (on Telemundo no less) that the death of Kate Steinle was “a little thing”[1] (una cosa pequeña).

San Francisco, as is true daily in other sanctuary cities, rolled the dice with someone else’s safety, and, in this case, a life was lost.

In a larger sense, we are asked to believe that breaking federal law is a one-time phenomenon for the illegal alien, not often the beginning of habitual legal noncompliance that quickly snowballs into a labyrinth of illegality — all predicated on the crime of entering the U.S. unlawfully. Suggesting that cities with large populations of illegal aliens witness no greater per capita crime rates (and do we know accurately the number of illegal aliens who reside in these supposedly safer cities?) than others is to ignore everyday things like creating false identities, filing fraudulent Social Security numbers, and driving without licenses, insurance and registration. Or are these written off as mere infractions rather than crimes?

By needs, the world of millions of illegal aliens is not one where one reports or counts all criminal activity, or considers reportable the sort of crimes that citizens would pay dearly for (try getting caught with a fake ID, or filing a Social Security number). But if the host country did not have a problem with millions entering it illegally, it certainly has even less than a problem with what follows.

I had the Orwellian experience of driving to the DMV not long ago while listening to a talking head on the car radio sermonize on the less-than-average criminal incidents among illegal aliens. Ten minutes later I queued up in a serpentine line with over a hundred habitual drivers who, as illegal aliens, were there for their first driver’s licenses[2]. In the past, had they broken no law? Was it really a crime yesterday morning when two non-English speakers turned up on my front lawn, in trespass, sitting down waiting “for someone,” while exchanging wads of cash — just hours after my pickup was reported stolen with its registration (address) and the gate and garage clickers? Do such “infractions” happen much to Gov. Brown or Sen. Feinstein?

What we won’t hear from quite liberal people is that their own policies of legal nullification are catalysts for tragedies. Municipal and state nullification of federal statutes also has a shameful American history. It was just such a principle — that local and regional lawmakers could decide that the law of land is not applicable to themselves — that was at the heart of the argument for the Old Confederacy.

If 19th-century South Carolina could unilaterally declare that U.S. law did not apply within its environs, why then not 21st century San Francisco as well? (Apparently San Francisco thinks South Carolina was on the winning side of the Civil War.)

Such contemporary liberal nullification is predicated on the relativist premise that progressive and situational cancellation of law is noble — whereas other, less enlightened states or city rights movements have no business copying their model. Should Billings declare gay marriage illegal inside its city limits , or should Fresno County decide to suspend the Endangered Species Act inside its border, or should Provo announce that the city would summarily deport illegal aliens without notifying federal authorities, San Franciscans would be outraged. They would rightly equate such nullification with secessionism.

Picking and choosing which federal laws to follow — whether or not to file a tax return with the IRS? — leads where exactly? Do those who are caught not filing tax returns statistically have no higher incidence of criminality? And if that were true, what exactly would it prove?

The president early on developed a strange tic of editorializing on local criminal cases — both trivial and fundamental — to squeeze from them a few drops of supposed transcendental wisdom. Professor Henry Louis Gates was briefly detained for the understandable appearance of breaking into his own home. For Obama, that psychodrama prompted a teachable moment about the supposed racial prejudice of police who “stereotype” people of color.

The lethal confrontation between African-American Trayvon Martin and “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman elicited a presidential editorial about the shared racial affinity between the victim and the president. (The president did not include the half-Peruvian George Mesa Zimmerman in such ethnic intimacy.) “Ferguson” is casually dropped as a racial fillip by the president, as if he is unaware that his own Justice Department did not find officer Darren Wilson culpable in the shooting of strong-armed robber Michael Brown, who rushed him. Even Sandra Fluke, in her quest for cosmic justice in campaigning for the federal government to cover her own birth-control expenses, earned a presidential phone call, as warranting her Susan B. Anthony-like struggle.

There was no such outreach concerning the tragic fate of Kate Steinle. Her senseless death, for the president, proves so far not a wake-up call about any dubious government policy or dangerous trend in American social life. He apparently does not believe that arbitrarily suspending federal law is scary (cf. his own executive orders), much less that doing so in the case of convicted felons is only doubly so.

Perhaps the president, who is an advocate of the sort of de facto amnesty that empowered Francisco Lopez, was embarrassed over Kate Steinle’s death, and so kept uncharacteristically mum. Perhaps the ethnic divide this time around was not rich enough to be mined — a felon and shooter of color and an innocent victim without color. Perhaps Obama was afraid that he might say something inane and untoward, in Trayvon Martin style, about the physical resemblance or non-resemblance of the victim to one of his possible offspring. It was this president, remember, who established the principle that, in controversial criminal matters, the chief executive would seek political traction, and thereby has found himself morally wanting through his abject silence in the Steinle case.

Sanctuary cities are secessionist, and predicated on cowardice — and the odds. The elites that draft such laws assume, occasionally erroneously, that they and their own are probably immune from the consequences of their own ideology, given that their schools, their neighborhoods, and their transportation are more likely to be shielded from those who arrive illegally and without any federal audit of their backgrounds. They assume that the law can become negotiable because a rising ethnic political force, frozen in amber, will always supposedly vote along perceived ethnic lines and might reward them for their past nullification, an assumption that, if true for the present, is by no means assured for the future. The cost — legal, criminal, social — of illegal aliens so often falls inordinately upon the middle class Latino community, which is already beginning to resent open borders.

Let us be honest: San Francisco’s legal nullification is not an act of racial blindness and fairness under the law, but one of political pandering, ethnic chauvinism and misplaced liberal narcissism. Finally, imagine if felon, parolee, fraud, and detainee Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been a non-Hispanic, but a seven-time paroled felon, who had been previously deported, again to take a hypothetical example, back home to South Africa five times for immigration violations — say, someone named a politically incorrect Gert Kruger. Would he have been let go by city authorities and kept shielded from federal officers — given that his release would resonate no politically correct policy, and even might have been interpreted as dangerous to the community and illiberal to boot?

San Francisco has become one sick city.

Unfortunately, I fear we will see just how sick as the saga of the killer Francisco Lopez and the “one tiny thing” of Kate Steinle’s demise winds it way through a sanctuary city’s courts.

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