Elsewhere: CBS5 SF Supes Propose Strengthening Sanctuary Law

New legislation introduced today by a San Francisco supervisor seeks to allow undocumented juveniles a court hearing before any potential referral to federal immigration authorities.

Supervisor David Campos called his proposal to amend San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance “a balanced, measured approach that is grounded on the values of San Francisco.”

Groups supporting the proposal rallied outside City Hall today, joined by Campos and several other supervisors who say they will vote for it.

San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, enacted in 1989, prohibits city employees from assisting federal immigration authorities, but there are exceptions that include reporting persons booked for felony crimes.

Last year, the city’s sanctuary ordinance received national attention after media reports revealed that the city was not notifying immigration authorities of undocumented juveniles arrested for felonies, a policy Mayor Gavin Newsom then reversed.

The move was intended to bring the city into compliance with state and federal law, according to the mayor’s office, but immigrant rights groups have bitterly opposed it. “The current policy is having many unintended consequences,” Campos said.

Supporters claim police efforts to enforce public safety are backfiring in immigrant communities because of hesitation to report crimes to police, both among families and even school officials, because of fears of deportation. They also say the policy is tearing apart immigrant families.

Campos’ legislation would mandate that youth arrested for felonies receive a hearing before a judge on their case, and only if they are found to have committed the crime would Immigration and Customs Enforcement be notified.

Currently the juvenile probation department refers such youth to ICE when they are booked after their arrest, before any court proceedings.

In cases where youth are charged in adult criminal court, they would be referred to ICE if a judge finds probable cause at a preliminary hearing.

“We in San Francisco believe in due process, we believe in fairness, we believe in the justice of the system,” Campos said.

Campos emphasized that undocumented juveniles who have committed serious crimes in the community should face deportation, but said he feels the decision on whether to refer to ICE “should rest with the courts” and not with the juvenile probation department. He insisted that a delay in reporting between arrest and a juvenile court judge’s decision would not be a violation of federal law.

“This is not harboring,” Campos said. “Reporting will take place.”

Seven other supervisors have signed on to Campos’ legislation, which was introduced before the Board of Supervisors this afternoon, providing a potential veto-proof majority on the board.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said today that the mayor “strongly supports” the city’s current “sensible” sanctuary policy, but deferred on whether Newsom intends to veto Campos’ offering.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Ballard said. “We’re not sure what’s going to become of this legislation.”

Ballard said last year’s changes were necessary to survive legal challenge.

“We can’t run afoul of state and federal law and expect our sanctuary policy to survive,” he said.

Both Campos and Ballard argued their respective approaches to the sanctuary policy represented “the right balance” between public safety and the rights of criminal suspects.

“We’ve had many conversations with Supervisor Campos about this, and we continue to be open to argument, but we believe that the policy that we have crafted makes the most sense,” Ballard said.

“I’m hoping that they do the right thing,” said Campos.

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