prison.jpgSan Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey said today he will soon begin releasing undocumented immigrants held in county jail for low-level offenses even if federal immigration officials request that they be held as part of its controversial Secure Communities program.

The program, which requires fingerprints of undocumented immigrants booked into local jails to be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, will not apply as of June 1 to people arrested for low-level misdemeanors in San Francisco, Hennessey said.

The sheriff said the decision to ignore Secure Communities requests to hold the low-level offenders came after a talk last November with David Venturella, the director of the program.

“During the course of that meeting, he revealed that ICE detainers are not binding on a law enforcement agency to honor,” Hennessey said. “They’re merely a request to hold the person, not a legally binding warrant.”

He said he also reviewed San Francisco’s sanctuary law and says his new policy is in line with the local policy.

“I’m enforcing the county law, and not violating either federal or state law,” Hennessey said.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Hennessey’s decision “is unfortunate.”

Kice said, “The identification and removal of many criminal aliens would not be possible without the cooperation of our state and local law enforcement partners.

She said, “ICE detainers are an effective tool to ensure that individuals arrested on criminal charges, who are also in violation of U.S. immigration law, are not released back into the community to potentially commit more crimes.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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