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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Supervisors Want Mayor Ed Lee to Take a Stand on Sanctuary City

Posted By on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 4:43 PM

  • Newsom's gone. Will Campos' law get a second chance?

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.

But Mayor

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

grand jury investigation of it, is long gone, now replaced by Democrat Melinda Haag.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF

and @SFWeekly  


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Lauren Smiley


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