The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave unanimous initial approval today of legislation that will prohibit local law enforcement from complying with nearly all federal immigration detainer requests.
The “due process for all” ordinance, authored by Supervisor John Avalos, is intended to remove San Francisco from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program.
The S-Comm program involves running a person’s fingerprints through an electronic database at the time of their arrest to determine their immigration status. ICE then requests that local agencies hold those who show up as undocumented immigrants when they would otherwise be released.
Avalos said today that the program is “a poor law enforcement tool” and that San Francisco should not comply with the federal requests, saying they ensnare potentially innocent people and make undocumented immigrants hesitant to report crimes out of fear of being deported.
After negotiations with the office of Mayor Ed Lee, the supervisors eventually agreed on an amendment to the legislation that would give the sheriff discretion to comply with the immigration hold requests in certain situations.
The so-called “carve-out” to the legislation would allow for the holds only if someone has been convicted of a violent crime or others like human trafficking in the past seven years and was in custody again on a similar offense.
Supervisor David Campos called the legislation “historic.”
Campos said, “The city is speaking loudly to this immigrant community … We want our residents, irrespective of their immigration status, to trust us.”
When the legislation was approved by all 11 supervisors, a large crowd of immigration rights advocates burst into cheers in the board chambers and chanted “Si se puede.”
The ordinance will return in front of the board at its next meeting on Oct. 1.
The approval of the legislation is a victory for the city’s immigrant community, said Angela Chan, a senior staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.
Chan, who also serves on the San Francisco Police Commission, said there have been nearly 800 deportations in the city in the past three years as a result of the S-Comm program.
She said ideally her organization would have preferred no “carve-out” in the ordinance and said it would closely monitor the policy to make sure “the exception doesn’t end up swallowing the rule.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News