By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday he has not reached out to the family of the woman killed in sanctuary city San Francisco earlier this month, and he doesn’t know if anyone else in the administration has either.

Kathryn Steinle’s case has reshuffled the immigration debate. A man deported five times before and that Homeland Security had wanted to deport one more time was instead released by San Francisco and was on the streets, where authorities say he killed the 32-year-old woman as she walked with her father.

All sides agree the case is tragic, and are pointing fingers over who is to blame for the suspect, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, being out on the streets at the time of the murder.

Testifying to Congress on Tuesday, Mr. Johnson said he hasn’t spoken with Steinle’s family and wasn’t aware if anyone else from the administration has contacted them after the murder.

Rep. Steve Chabot said that was stunning because administration officials have reached out to other murder victims in recent months — particularly those who were involved in police encounters. The Ohio Republican said if the administration hasn’t contacted the Steinle family it would be bad.

“Perhaps they need to do that. I would strongly recommend that,” he said.

Mr. Johnson said he does make a point of personally contacting sheriffs and police chiefs whose officers are killed.

Sanchez, the man accused of the murder, was in federal custody, serving prison time for a previous immigration violation. Homeland Security officials wanted him released into their custody for deportation after his prison term, but the bureau instead sent him to San Francisco, where he had a decades-old drug warrant.

Homeland Security officials had requested San Francisco hold Sanchez for them, but the city instead processed and released him under the terms of its sanctuary policy, which limits cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Mr. Johnson said he made a personal appeal to San Francisco’s sheriff in April asking them to rethink their policy, but had no luck. Dozens of others have rethought their policies and are considering working with the department, he said.

“My hope is that jurisdictions like San Francisco County will cooperate with our new program,” he said.

Still, he rejected one solution of passing federal law insisting local authorities cooperate, saying those laws might run afoul of the Constitution, and would not win over the hearts of local officials whose cooperation will be needed.

“I do not believe we should mandate the conduct of state and local law enforcement through federal legislation,” he said.

The secretary also said his department needs better communication with the Bureau of Prisons to try to make sure dangerous criminals aren’t released.