cityhall3.jpgA Democratic congressman from Illinois joined San Francisco city officials and community members outside City Hall Wednesday to call on President Obama to fix what they called a dysfunctional and unfair immigration system.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez joined Supervisors David Campos, David Chiu and John Avalos as part of his “Change Takes Courage” tour of at least 20 cities around the U.S. to encourage the president to stop the deportations of undocumented immigrants who have caused no harm in the country.

Gutierrez and the other officials criticized “Secure Communities,” a federal program that requires fingerprints of those booked into local jails to be shared with federal immigration authorities.

The program “was supposed to rid (the country of) the most serious criminals,” Gutierrez said, but of the people “it’s picking up, the majority, have absolutely no criminal background.”

Norma, a San Francisco resident who did not want to give her last name, said through a translator that she got swept up in the Secure Communities program because she called police in October to report that she was the victim of domestic violence.

Her partner also accused her of hitting him, and she was taken into custody and is now in deportation proceedings.

“I have a lot of fear,” said Norma, who has a young son. “The Secure Communities program has not made me secure … but I hope the experience with me can help serve others in a similar situation.”

Avalos said Norma’s story was an example of how the program is causing “a chilling effect throughout the community” and is actually making it less safe.

Campos was among the speakers at Wednesday’s event who said San Francisco was a unique stop on Gutierrez’s tour because it highlights the effect federal immigration policies have on gay and lesbian members of the community, and he encouraged LGBT and immigrant groups to work together.

“The violation of someone’s rights is discrimination no matter what the reason,” he said. “We’re all in this together.

Gutierrez called on Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants, particularly students who would have been eligible for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act.

The legislation, which would allow certain undocumented students who arrived in the U.S. as minors and were enlisted in a four-year college or the military to stay in the country, was passed by the House but died in the Senate in December.

“Use the executive authority you already have,” Gutierrez said.

“Stop these ugly, vicious raids.”

The congressman will continue his tour in St. Helena and Oakland on Thursday before traveling to Southern California at the end of the week.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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