With former Mayor Gavin Newsom gone, city supervisors are hoping to convince Mayor Ed Lee to enforce their version of the San Francisco's Sanctuary City policy.
Let's rewind to the drama: Three years ago, Newsom reversed a city policy that shielded undocumented teens who were booked into juvenile hall from being turned over to federal authorities. The probation department had been giving them a one-way ticket to their native country, on the taxpayers' dime.
The policy riled up the anti-immigrant forces around the country after the San Francisco Chronicle exposed what the city was doing.
Federal officials had detained a San Francisco probation officer who had been
escorting Honduran teens through the Houston airport to ensure they got
on the plane back home. Criticism of the city's policy further escalated after an illegal immigrant, Edwin Ramos, allegedly gunned down an innocent father and his two sons in the Excelsior District.
Newsom, who was running for California governor at the time, decided the city
would begin reporting all illegal juveniles who are merely arrested, not convicted, for a felony crime to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The controversial
policy continues to this day, splitting the community and politicians.
The change in the policy put the spotlight on one local case, when an undocumented San Francisco student got into a fight over 46 cents at school, and was slated for deportation. In our cover story about the issue,
we interviewed a teen, Jesus Cardenas Cortes, who'd been mistakenly
arrested. Although the district attorney dropped the charges against
him, he was still deported to Mexico.
Supervisor David Campos, who came to the country as an undocumented immigrant himself at age 14, was irritated by the issue; he did not believe the city should be setting up illegal juveniles for deportation unless they are convicted of felonies. He introduced legislation in 2009 to reflect this. The Board of Supervisors, with a progressive majority, passed it, but Newsom vetoed the legislation. The board passed it again with a veto proof majority.
Still, Newsom had the last word. He instructed the probation department, which was already being investigated by a federal civil grand jury for the previous policy, to continue reporting illegal kids to ICE when they were arrested.
Lee, the city's first Chinese American mayor, could be a different story.
Immediately after taking office, Campos and community
organizations approached him about the issue -- hoping to get him on their side of the illegal immigrant debate.
Lee has "always
been a champion of civil rights and immigrant rights issues, so we
remain hopeful he'll implement the law," says Sheila Chung-Hagen, a
legislative aid for Campos. "We know he's actively taking a look at the
"This is a prioritiy area for not only [Campos], but
several other supes. We know (John) Avalos, (Jane) Kim, (Eric) Mar, (David) Chiu, and (Ross) Mirkarimi are
supes that have actively talked with Ed Lee and supported the original
measure," she said.
Juvenile Probation Chief William Sifferman played coy
about whether he'd been in any discussions about implementing the
policy, saying: "I'm always open to discussing our policy with the
mayor." When asked if he'd like the policy changed to be more lenient, he said, "There are
many things I have a personal opinion on," but added "I follow the
directions I receive from my boss, the mayor."
Though the policy
change would surely send the anti-immigrant forces into a hissy fit
once again, the city has, at the very least, the court backing them. A California appeals court ruled this week that San
Francisco cannot be held liable for not having reported Ramos to the
authorities when he'd been in custody before.
And former conservative, Republican U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello,
who had condemned the old probation policy and instigated the federal