SF supervisors urge city to defy federal immigration holds

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Angela Chan (left) congratulates members of the San Francisco Immigrant Rigths Defense Committee after the vote.
Steven T. Jones

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tues/13) approved a resolution calling for the city to adopt stronger policies for resisting federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants who live here. It is the latest move to support the city's Sanctuary City status and counter the federal Secure Communities (S-Com) program, a new database that allows the feds to circumvent local policies protecting local immigrants who have been arrested but not convicted of any crimes.

The resolution urges the Sheriff's and Juvenile Probation departments not to honor civil immigration detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement until there is a written agreement to have ICE pay for all local costs associated with the incarcerations. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted a similar policy in October, a move also being pursued in Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, and other jurisdictions.

“It doesn't make communities safer. In fact, it makes immigrant communities less safe,” Sup. Eric Mar, who authored the resolution, said of S-Com, noting that it makes immigrants less likely to report crimes or cooperate with police. “I urge you to support this message and to follow the lead of jurisdictions like Santa Clara and Chicago, Cook County.”

Sups. David Campos and Jane Kim asked to join Mar and Board President David Chiu as co-sponsors of the measure, which was then approved on an 8-3 vote, with Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, and Carmen Chu in dissent. Members of the San Francisco Immigrant Right Defense Committee, who had lobbied hard for the resolution and who packed board chambers, erupted in a sustained standing ovation after the vote.

Angela Chan, an attorney with Asian Law Caucus who helped lead the effort, afterward told supporters, “It's because of this group's hard work that we got a lot more votes than we thought we'd get,” noting they only had six solid votes going in. “Thank you, happy holiday, and we have lots more work to do.”

Chan hopes the resolution will give political cover to Ross Mirkarimi – who supported the measure as a supervisor and who takes over as sheriff at the end of the month – to expand policies created this year by Sheriff Michael Hennessey to resist some immigration detainer requests. Mirkarimi hasn't yet returned calls for comment on the issue.

San Francisco has a fraught recent history on how to handle undocumented immigrants accused of crimes. Two years ago, the board adopted a policy of refusing to report them to the feds until they had been convicted of serious crimes, approving the Campos-authored legislation on a veto-proof 8-3 vote, only to have then-Mayor Gavin Newsom refuse to enforce the policy. After that highly charged fight, the creation of the S-Com program allowed the feds to circumvent those restrictions by directly finding out whether local inmates are undocumented, making moot Mayor Ed Lee's agreement to partially implement the Campos legislation.

As we report in this week's paper, this is one of a number of issues related to local control and an overreaching police state where Bay Area communities such as Berkeley, San Francisco, Richmond, and San Jose are trying to push back on the federal government. Sup. Jane Kim is currently working on an ordinance to restrict the participation of San Francisco http://www.sfbg.com/2011/04/26/spies-blue. Advocates say she plans to introduce the measure next month, but Kim told us she's have some difficulty getting sign-off from the City Attorney's Office.