A proposal to bar San Francisco law enforcement officials from complying with federal immigration detainer requests was put on hold today as city supervisors debated whether to exclude violent convicts from the legislation.
Supervisor John Avalos authored the “due process for all” ordinance in response to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program, which runs a person’s fingerprints through an electronic database at the time of arrest to determine their immigration status.
If the arrestee shows up in the database as an undocumented immigrant, ICE requests that the local jurisdiction hold them once that person is otherwise eligible for release.
Avalos said San Francisco officials should not comply with the S-Comm requests because it ensnares potentially innocent people and makes undocumented immigrants hesitant to report crimes out of fear that they will be deported.
However, Mayor Ed Lee indicated that he would veto the legislation unless it contained what he called a “carve-out” exception that would require San Francisco officials to hold those allegedly involved in violent crimes, child molestation or human trafficking.
As a result, Supervisor Jane Kim today introduced an amendment to the ordinance that would give the sheriff discretion to comply with the federal request only if someone had been convicted of one of those serious crimes in the past seven years and was in custody for another similar offense.
Kim said the amendment was “thoughtful and limited,” but other supervisors thought the legislation should stay in its current form.
“I Know the intention with the ‘carve-out’ is to ensure public safety, but I have to say that I will respectfully disagree,” Supervisor David Campos said.
“I am afraid that in the process of trying to do the right thing, we’re going to end up with unintended consequences,” Campos said, noting the Latino community’s fear of reporting crimes because of possible immigration consequences.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi also supported approving the legislation in its original form, writing in a letter to Avalos that it would “not lead to violent criminals being turned loose onto our streets.”
Adachi wrote that those accused of violent crimes almost always remain in custody anyways because of high bail amounts set in connection with the offenses.
However, board president David Chiu said that the legislation did not have enough support to surpass a mayoral veto and agreed with the exceptions in “the narrowest of circumstances.”
As a result, the supervisors voted to delay the vote on the legislation until next week’s meeting while they draft the exact wording of the amendment.
Immigrant rights advocates packed the board chambers for this afternoon’s meeting and cheered loudly when Avalos thanked them for their support of the legislation.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News