A favorite punching bag in the city’s ongoing sanctuary city/immigrants’ rights imbroglio has been the Juvenile Probation Department, with immigrants’ rights advocates openly accusing the department of racial profiling, breaking families, and other evil deeds. Bending at least slightly to these assertions, the department will remove some policy language deemed offensive, according to Chief Juvenile Probation Officer William Sifferman.
The offending policy is part of the department’s procedures for dealing with undocumented youth, which were revised in the months after Tony Bologna and two of his sons were slain in the Excelsior District. An undocumented gang member who escaped deportation as a youthful felon has been charged with the slayings.
In the fervor following the brazen murders, then-gubernatorial candidate Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the Juvenile Probation Department to alter its policy — which it did sometime in August of 2008, documents show. Since then, the department’s policy has instructed officers to consider a slew of factors when deciding to refer an illegal ne’er do-well to immigration, among them “the presence of [other] undocumented persons in the same area where arrested or involved in the same illegal activity.”
This line in particular has angered immigrant rights activists, who claim that it allows probation officers — who do not make arrests, on the streets or otherwise — to engage in racial profiling.
The policy, crafted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the City Attorney’s Office and the Juvenile Probation Department in concert, also directs probation officers to consider undocumented youth’s involvement in criminal street gangs. The policy as written would likely stand up to legal challenges, according to Sifferman. Nonetheless, his office is working on removing both the “presence of [other] undocumented persons” and possibly the gang activity criteria as well, he said Monday.
“We had an urgent and immediate necessity [in summer of 2008] to implement a policy,” said Sifferman, who said the stink raised by immigrant rights advocates at a public hearing was particularly motivating in deciding to revise the policy. While it’s unclear if the offending language directly lead to deportations of youth — it is only one of a host of criteria probation officers consider — the policy will be edited and juvenile probation officers retrained, possibly as soon as a month from now.
Supervisor David Campos, a frequent Sifferman critic, authored an update to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy specifically directing probation officers to contact immigration control only after a felony conviction. With the blessing of Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sifferman’s department has ignored this directive, in large part because a crusading US attorney is actively investigating city officials for violations of federal law.
Removing the language is a good start, but “it’s something that should never have been included in any policy,” said Campos, who was himself an undocumented youth (though not a felon) when he emigrated to Los Angeles at 14 (before earning a law degree from Harvard University). “It is on its face discriminatory, and would lead to racial profiling. I’m glad they addressed it.”
How will the new policy read? Sifferman couldn’t say, but it will be crafted with input from immigrant rights groups like the Asian Law Caucus taken into consideration.