Newsom’s sanctuary policy destroys MUNI worker’s family

"They used our son as bait" Charles Washington (right) said, flanked by his wife Tracey, her two sons and his daughter.

“They used our son as bait, just to get the mother to come in,” Washington said.

When San Francisco native and MUNI bus driver Charles Washington married Tracey, his Australian girlfriend in Reno last April, he never imagined that she and her sons would be deported after her 13-year-old bullied another kid at school for 46 cents.

But that’s what will happen Friday, March 5, almost a year after their wedding, unless a miracle happens. And this travesty is happening thanks to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s overreaching juvenile sanctuary policy, a broken federal immigration system, and a couple who tried to do the right thing, but were told they didn’t need to apply for a green card in a hurry, when they called an immigration number for information last year.

‘What more could we have done other than call the number?” Washington asked, noting that once they were told it wasn’t urgent, they began saving up, so they could afford the several thousand dollars a green card for his wife and two kids was going to cost.


But now, thanks to a bullying incident at school, and the city’s overly draconian policy towards immigrant youth, Washington’s wife and her 13-year-old son will be deported to Australia on Friday, and her 5-year-old boy will accompany them, while Washington  stays in San Francisco to look after his 12-year old daughter (pictured in a photograph taken at the March 1 press conference at Asian Law Caucus).

“There are no laws that prevent me from going to Australia, but I have joint custody of my daughter from a previous marriage and her mother is not going to authorize the child to move, so I’m hoping for a miracle,” Washington explained.

His wife Tracey, who has been forced to wear a federal electronic monitoring bracelet since February, looked on in silence, flanked by her sons and step-daughter.

Washington, who grew up on Mt. Davidson Terrace, and was formerly in the military, had been driving a MUNI bus for a year and a half, when he woke one morning after he got home from his late-night MUNI shift, to hear the phone ringing with a call from his stepson’s school to say there where problems between him and a sixth grader.

“The school told me it was their policy to call the parents any time the police are going to talk to a child,” Washington said. Twenty minutes later, he and his wife were at the school, talking to an SFPD officer, who said a report had been filed by another parent about the incident and the police now wanted to talk to their kid.

After the interview with the police, Washington thought the worst thing that could happen was that the officer would write a citation to say his son needed to appear at juvenile court. Instead, the police arrested his stepson, putting him in handcuffs and saying that they were going to take him to the Juvenile Justice center.

“I think my son was in shock, as I was, “ Washington said. “What he actually did, and what the actual charges are, they are universes apart. Back when I was in school, at worst, a bully was sent home for the day, creating problems for them at home, when they explain to their parents why they’ve been sent home.”

Instead, Washington’s stepson was charged with felony robbery, extortion and assault after the parents of a sixth-grader at his school called the police, but his case has yet to be adjudicated by a juvenile justice, --and a bench warrant will be issued if he fails to attend a March 8 hearing in San Francisco—3 days after he and his mother are deported.

According to Washington, (pictured here (left) with Angela Chan, (right) staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus) no weapons, no injuries and no witnesses were involved in his stepson’s incident. “And it was strictly one kids’ words against the other,” Washington said.

So, why did the police decide to refer his stepson to the federal immigration authorities?

“I think the officer picked up on the fact that he had an accent,” Washington said. “And when asked where he was born, my stepson said, ‘Australia.’ He is 13 years old. He doesn’t know if he is undocumented or not. As far as he is concerned, he was born in Australia, moved to San Francisco, and this is his family, his new family.”

Washington said his stepson was held for a week at Juvenile Hall for a week, during which the atmosphere at home became tense and stressful.

“We did not understand why this was happening,” Washington said. “Kids on my bus get on and do way worse things than he actually did, and the police usually make their presence known, but there is no worry about going to Juvenile Hall.”

But the worst was yet to come.
After his stepson had been at Juvenile Hall for about a week, Washington got a call from his stepson’s probation officer, saying that he was going to have to contact federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“He said he had to contact ICE, that he was just doing his job, that it’s what’s required under his job title,” Washington said.

Under a new policy that Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered in the summer of 2008, the city’s juvenile probation officers are required to contact the feds when a juvenile is booked on suspected felony charges. This means, the probation officers are required to contact ICE before immigrant kids have even had a hearing before a juvenile judge to determine if they are in fact, guilty, as charged.

‘They didn’t say, ‘he might be deported,’” Washington said.” I was just told that there might be a ‘ICE hold put on him,’ but at this point I was still not understanding the importance of ICE.”

Once ICE picked up his stepson and transferred him to ICE’s facility on Sansome Street, Washington got a call from his stepson, who said he was OK.

“At this point, we were aware of the immigration issue, so I told my wife to stay at home and I went down there with a lawyer, and I was able to meet with my son,” Washington recalled.

But when he got back home, he received a call from his lawyer who notified him that if his wife was willing to go in and put on an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, the feds would release their son.

“So, I drove my wife to Sansome Street, and that’s when we were informed that she was being handed her deportation orders, along with our 13-year-old son,” he said

His wife has been wearing the electronic monitoring ankle bracelet ever since.

“She wore pants today because it makes her feel ashamed, and she cries nightly over the fact that she feels like she’s being treated like an animal,” Washington said. “She says, ‘I feel like they think I’m a murderer, but I’m not, I haven’t done anything wrong.’”

According to Washington, his wife arrived in the country along with her kids on a 90-day visa-waiver, and the couple got married about 45 days into that visa.

“We had known each other for seven years, and we looked into getting a green card, two days after we were married, and we were told, not once, but twice, that if you enter on a visa-waiver, there is no deadline to apply for your green card. We were misinformed.”

But while Washington notes that the office that he spoke to was a contractor for the federal government and had its information wrong, he still can’t get over the fact that the federal government would treat him and his wife this way, using their son as bait.

‘This is all shocking to me,” Washington said. “I never dreamed America would treat not only someone from America, but someone not from America, this way. All we want is for our application to be reviewed based upon the facts. We are being told it’s too late.”

Equally upsetting for Washington was the experience of seeing his stepson used as bait.

‘They used our son as bait, just to get the mother to come in,” he said. “ Our son wasn’t there for more than 4 or 5 hours ,and we had no clue that the deportation papers would be served until we walked in. They hadn’t even put the monitoring bracelet on her. She could easily have run, but we still don’t want to break the law, regardless of the outcome. Even though we did something wrong according to ICE, it wasn’t intentionally. If we had been given the correct information, we wouldn’t be here. Yes, we couldn’t afford the money at that time, but we’d have made sacrifices.”

Washington said he is reaching out to the media in a last ditch effort to save his family.

“I don’t know any other way but to network, maybe someone might know someone else who can save my family,” he said. ‘My stepson, he’s just a nerd, he’s not a violent person, he’s not aggressive at all, he’s just being a boy, and he really hasn’t had a father figure in his life, until he moved here.”

Angela Chan, staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus, which has been helping the Washington family try to get their green cards, said that if the son had never been reported to ICE, then the family likely would have received green cards.

“But now they are refusing to consider it, because of the ICE referral,” Chan said.

Chan also explained that if the boy was able to appear before a juvenile justice, he’d likely get informal probation for a first-time minor offense.

“He only had a hearing, but the juvenile proceedings were halted, when he got handed off to ICE,” Chan said. “The District Attorney had filed charges, but they had not yet been adjudicated, and a judge had not yet reduced the charges.”

Jane Kim, President of the San Francisco United School District said the School Board unanimously supported the amendment to Newsom’s policy that Sup. David Campos introduced last year and which a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors supports.

“We have seen how changes in the Juvenile Probation Department as of August 2008 have been used as a blunt tool to separate family members, regardless of whether the juvenile is convicted of the charges, and regardless of the family’s circumstances. And we don’t believe that the Campos amendment violates the US Constitution.”

“Newsom’s policy has put a lot of burden on our staff,’ Kim said, explaining how schools are now worried about calling the police, lest students end up being deported because the police referred them to ICE, based merely on accusations, 

“For those worried about public safety, I think this type of situation encourages under reporting,” Kim said.

Washington for his worries that his wife and her kids will be homeless in Australia.

‘My wife sold her furniture and gave up her apartment in Melbourne to come here, and her mother and father have a one-bedroom apartment, so there is no space for her and two kids,” he said

He also worries that if they ever manage to come back, his stepson will have a warrant out for his arrests:
 ‘Today we were notified that if my stepson doesn’t show up for his March 8 pre-hearing (in the juvenile justice system where the DA’s office is pressing charges), we’ll have to worry about a warrant for his arrest, which will make it even more difficult for him to move back” Washington said.

If a person is deported, they are barred from reentering the country for 3-10 years.

The Washingtons’ federal deportation will occur the day after the Board of Supervisors holds a hearing into why the city’s Juvenile Probation Department has failed to implement the city’s new policy towards immigrant youth: under the new policy, which the Board passed in 2009, a teenager like Tracey Washington’s son would get his day in court before being referred to federal immigration.

Since July 2008, when Newsom first began requiring probation officers to report all suspected undocumented youth for deportation right after arrest - before the youth  receives an attorney or a hearing on the alleged charges, over 160 children have been reported to ICE without regard to their innocence or how minor the offense.

In November 2009, a community-based based campaign resulted in the passage of a new policy that restores due process to immigrant youth. The new policy gives youth an opportunity to have a hearing and requires a finding that the youth committed a felony before any referral to ICE. If implemented, the new policy would boost public safety for all residents because it would put an end to the Mayor's policy, which has caused immigrant residents to be afraid to have contact with city employees.

 "Until Mayor Newsom restores due process to all youth in San Francisco, many more hard-working families like the Washingtons will be torn apart," said Chan.
On Thursday, March 4, the Board’s' Rules Committee will hold a 10.30 am hearing at City Hall regarding Juvenile Probation Department's refusal to implement the Campos amendment which would restore due process to youth.


"Newsom’s sanctuary policy destroys MUNI worker’s family"...ummm, no, the family broke the law and have been staying in the country illegally...they caused the situation. Put the blame where it belongs. You get no sympathy from me or my family. They had no trouble breaking up their previous marriages, so this shouldn't be that difficult.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

Actually, if you read the article, you can see the family was mis-informed by USCIS. They called to ask about obtaining a green card for the wife (and as the husband is a US citizen, this shouldn't be a problem), and they were told they didn't need to do it immediately. Their family was unable to afford the application fee, and was saving up for the ability to do so. Assuming also that the wife was unable to work because of her status, you have a family of 4, on a single income, struggling to survive in San Francisco while saving up to do the right thing.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

It is common here in Australia to use one illegal migrant as bait to get the others to turn up to the police station so that they can all be deported together. What was done in the USA was no different from what we do here in Australia.

If the same case happened here in Australia, the illegal migrants would have been locked up in Villawood for around a year or so and then deported when they were suicidal.

At least in the USA, the illegal migrants were processed quickly.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 3:06 am

I was a migrant myself but I played by the rules.

1. You CANNOT enter on a visa waiver if your intent is to marry - that is viewed as fraudulaent and that question is asked when you apply for the waiver - so she put herself and her children in that position. As an Australian I can tell you that in Australia they make it very clear to travelers to the USA abt the difefrent visas.

2. A visa waiver cannot be extended past the 3 months, not even if you exit and re-enter the USA within a few months let alone few days.

3. Once here and married you do not automatically get to stay; you have to go through the process of obtaining a greencard. Once you apply you are "in process" and have legal standing no matter how long the officials take to get the greencard to you.

Lots of Australian migrants to the USA have done this before Tracey. You and your hubby were not so special to be above the law. And just because "someone" told you otherwise, it was your responsibility to check and double check. There are a lot of reslurces in SF and other Aussies that could have guided you if you asked.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 11:30 am

As someone who works to prevent youth from coming unjustly in contact with the juvenile justice system, for me, one of the most alarming aspects of this incident were the charges leveled against the boy - felony robbery, extortion and assault for punching another boy and taking 46 cents?

For me, this incident demonstrates a serious lapse in the way our juvenile justice system overreacts to adolescent misbehavior. The boy in this case was a bully, not a felon. I must ask all those who were involved in his arrest - is anyone in the public protected by charging this youth with such felonies? What happened to the conflict resolution? What happened to counseling and rehabilitation?

I hope this case brings to light serious transformation that is long overdue in our juvenile justice system, and inspires powerful people to move toward a system that is beneficial to our communities and the youth who will be our future leaders.

-Tshaka Barrows, Community Justice Network for Youth

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

The Statue of Liberty and the words on it mean nothing to the foaming-at-the-mouth rabid regressives who fixate and obsess all waking hours on undocumented immigrants. I am so sick of the rabid regressives and their hate and bile (as well as their willful ignorance). And like a typical useless and opportunist politician, Newsom is now catering to them on various issues (this sanctuary city issue and the proposed sit/lie law are examples that come to mind).

We should just ship the Statue of Liberty back to France with a note saying, "some "people" (if one can call them that) here in the States want to turn this nation back to at least the 1930-40s and they don't want the Statue of Liberty anymore, they don't believe in the words written on it so just melt the thing down and use the remaining materials for something else. Just recycle it. Thank you very much. But don't feel badly France, the same "people" have no respect or regard for the US Constitution either."

I thank all immigrants (whether they be undocumented or documented) for their many contributions to this nation.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

During the Bush years did you leave the country, as you insist that people who don't like SF "liberalism" should of?

You also have a confused view of the constitution, it would be the federal government that sets immigration law. Not a San Francisco politician who's political ambitions are abased on not representing citizens of his district.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

Mayor Newsom's ridiculously harsh policy is breaking up this loving family. Newsom's prescription for cruel and unusual punishment is worsening the impacts of our broken federal immigration system on families like the Washingtons, and it simply makes no sense! Thanks so much to the SFBG for continuing to shine a light on this cruel policy.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

One of the prominent factors that remains undiscussed via the Chronicle is that the woman is a white, native English-speaker as opposed to, oh, I don't know ... MEXICAN AND UNABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH!!!!!!! ... I also wonder if this aspect will get the hypocritically racist xenophobes to do some soul-searching or if they will just lie and self-righteously say that race should make no difference. What's more, how will the fact that it is an interracial couple and child factor into the equation. So many new issues and factors are at play that it boggles the mind.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 1:11 pm


We don't speak English here in the States. English is spoken in Britain. The closest thing spoken to that here in the States is a hybrid-type language. So stop your all caps hate of Latinos, Méxicans, Hispanos et al. And what's stopping you from learning Español? It's a very interesting language. I prefer to hear Español as opposed to what passes as Inglés here in the States.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

So the majority of people who have been saying that our nationals laws should be obeyed are secret racists, and these secret racists will be confused by this????

Your extrapolations are very puzzling. Does Sarah Phelans open George Wallace racialism bother you this much too?

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

I can't imagine how heartless some of you Americans are. It is not about being deported, let alone no trial, it is about breaking up a family. The dad can't leave America because he would loose contact with his daughter. Imagine telling your son or daughter that you have to abandon them because of what your other child did. So much for American values.

Posted by Graham on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 9:18 pm