Several immigration rights activists were arrested this morning outside the San Francisco office of California Attorney General Jerry Brown while protesting a program that links federal immigration authorities with local law enforcement.
Dozens of people gathered outside the State Building at 11 a.m. to rally against Secure Communities, a nationwide program begun in San Francisco this year that shares the fingerprints of arrestees with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE has said the program helps remove those who have committed serious crimes, but immigration rights advocates claim others in the undocumented community are being swept up, and the community is being terrorized.
The immigration rights groups are asking Brown to let San Francisco opt out of the program. They warned today that otherwise, Brown will not have the support of the Latino community in his run for governor.
Amid cries of “Justicia!” and “Let us opt out!” outside Brown’s 11th floor office, California Highway Patrol officers informed the group they were disrupting office workers and disturbing the peace. The CHP provides security for state buildings.
Brown was not in the building and a representative did not meet with the group.
About five or six protesters refused to disperse and were handcuffed and arrested for unlawful assembly.
Earlier this year, Brown refused a request by San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey to allow the city not to participate in Secure Communities. Hennessey had expressed concern the program conflicts with the city’s sanctuary law shielding undocumented immigrants accused of minor crimes.
Spokespeople for Brown and ICE said in separate statements today that the two agencies had agreed to meet with Hennessey next week to discuss his opt-out request, but Hennessey asked to postpone it.
Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst confirmed Hennessey asked to postpone the meeting, but added, “It’s ICE’s meeting to schedule.”
“We are in active discussion with ICE and anticipate that the meeting will happen in mid-November,” Hirst said.
It is not entirely clear which entity – Brown’s office or ICE – would have the final say on whether San Francisco can opt out of the program.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said her agency “remains committed to collaborating with local law enforcement agencies on the implementation of Secure Communities and determining the appropriate next steps for those jurisdictions.”
According to ICE statistics, between June 8, when Secure Communities was begun in San Francisco and Aug. 31, 38 people arrested have since been deported, 20 of whom did not have a prior criminal record.
Ari Burack, Bay City News