San Francisco supervisors today overturned a mayoral veto, amending the city’s sanctuary ordinance to prohibit undocumented youth accused of felonies from being reported to federal immigration authorities until conviction.
Dozens of members of San Francisco’s immigrant community and their supporters turned out for this afternoon’s vote, as they have for each vote on the controversial proposal by Supervisor David Campos, and cheered at the 8-3 decision to overturn the veto.
Campos thanked them afterward.
“It’s a victory for San Francisco, it’s a victory for all people, whether you’re an immigrant or not,” Campos said.
However, Newsom has pledged not to implement the legislation.
“The mayor still supports sanctuary city,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said today. “It’s just, this goes too far.”
Newsom has claimed the law is unenforceable based on federal law that local jurisdictions can’t prohibit their employees from reporting those suspected of being in the country illegally. The city’s current policy is for the Juvenile Probation Department to report during the booking process after a felony arrest.
Newsom has said he won’t put city employees at legal risk by implementing a new reporting policy.
The mayor has also said Campos’ amendment could put the entire sanctuary ordinance, intended to protect otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants, in jeopardy through new lawsuits.
Supporters of Campos’ legislation have framed the issue as being about due process for undocumented youth.
In an interview before today’s hearing, an undocumented Honduran mother of six, who asked not to be named out of privacy concerns, said her 16-year-old son had been arrested about two weeks ago for a crime he was later found not to have committed.
Instead of being freed, the boy was taken to a federal immigration facility in Oregon and now faces deportation proceedings, the woman said.
“My life has totally changed,” she said through a translator. “I have never been separated from my children.”
The woman said her family fled Honduras six years ago because her then-husband was a policeman there and the family faced threats of violence from gangs.
She said her son has no criminal record and is not a gang member, but was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, walking down the street with his headphones on when he was mistakenly identified and arrested for making criminal threats against a man.
Prosecutors later declined to file charges for lack of evidence, the woman said. But when she arrived at court to see her son, she was told he had already been handed over to ICE.
The woman said she is now very scared for her son, who has no family left in Honduras, and for her the rest of her family.
“I’ve always been watching them very closely, and I’ve always been terrified of something like this,” she said.
Campos has said his law–which would push referral to ICE back to the juvenile court equivalent of conviction, or after a probable cause finding if the youth is tried as an adult–represents a “balanced” approach to the problem. Instead of all undocumented youth simply accused of felonies being referred, now only convicted youth criminal offenders will face deportation, he said.
The other extreme came before it was revealed last year that the city was not referring any youth accused of felonies to ICE, a policy that Newsom then changed.
Campos said today that his office had received hate mail, emails and phone calls over the last few weeks over his legislation.
“Even if they’re undocumented, they’re still people,” he said.
Campos maintained that the law would increase public safety because immigrant families will now be more willing to work with police and report crimes in their communities.
Today’s veto overturn will allow Campos’ legislation to go into effect in 30 days. After that, the Juvenile Probation Department has 60 days to change its policies and practices to comply with the ordinance.
“My hope today is that the mayor will see that following the law is the right thing to do,” Campos said, adding that Newsom “doesn’t have the (legal) authority to unilaterally disregard what the board has done.”
Late this afternoon, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office publicly released a letter to U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello asking that he “provide an assurance” that if the city implements Campos’ amendment, city law enforcement and employees will not face federal prosecution.
If such assurance is not forthcoming, Herrera said he “may be compelled to explore with City policymakers other options regarding the implementation and enforcement” of the amendment, including the possibility of his office filing its own federal lawsuit seeking a ruling from the court on the validity of the amendment.