Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declined to say Monday whether cities offering "sanctuary" to dangerous illegal immigrants are posing a safety threat in the United States, just days after a criminal alien who was given sanctuary in San Francisco shot and killed a California woman.
Johnson was asked if the death of Kathryn Steinle last Thursday proved that sanctuary cities were part of the problem when it comes to removing dangerous immigrants. But Johnson didn't answer directly, and instead said generally that the federal government is slowly starting to work more effectively with state and local governments on deportation matters.
"In my view, this type of situation highlights the importance of the direction where we are headed," he said when asked about the California murder.
RELATD: Lawmaker on Obama plans for immigration enforcement: 'I don't think they care'
Johnson explained that many local jurisdictions were "resisting cooperating" with DHS under its Secure Communities program, which was aimed at deporting criminals behind bars. DHS replaced it in November with a new prioritized list of deportable aliens.
But he said resistance at the state and local level still remains.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of jurisdictions that have resisted that around the country, with the old program, so we put this new program in place, which I believe resolved the political and legal obstacles and objections that have been arising," he said.
"We're headed in the direction where we want to work more effectively with state and local jurisdictions to get at people who are threats to public safety, who are undocumented, who we should be focusing our resources on deporting," Johnson added. "So, that's my overall observation. I believe we're headed in that direction, and every day we take a step in that direction."
RELATED: Trump blasts Rubio, says he should 'stand up' and secure the border
But Johnson's answers are unlikely to be good enough for the family of Steinle and other victims of crime by illegal immigrants. According to the Daily Mail, Francisco Sanchez allegedly shot and killed Steinle last week, after he was sent back over the souther border by federal officials five times.
The paper said immigration officials made Sanchez a priority for deportation, but said Sanchez was granted "sanctuary" by the city of San Francisco.
RELATED: Mainstream Scream: Couric presses Cruz about 'empathy' for illegals
Johnson said both he and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana are both hoping to remove and deport criminals. Earlier this year, however, Saldana was forced to retract her earlier call for cities to abandon their "sanctuary city" status.
In March, she told Congress that she would support laws to eliminate these local laws aimed at sheltering illegal immigrants. But by late March, she said any federal bill to require compliance with federal immigration law at the state and local level would be "counterproductive."
Steinle's death was noted over the weekend by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said other candidates should "stand up" for a greater effort to secure the border.