Moral Low Ground


San Francisco Passes Law Rejecting ICE Secure Communities Deportation Program

Immigrant rights protest, San Francisco Civic Center (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

Immigrant rights protest, San Francisco Civic Center (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

In a resounding rejection of the federal government’s detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, San Francisco’s governing body unanimously passed an ordinance barring local law enforcement from complying with most federal detention requests.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chambers erupted in celebratory chants of “¡si se puede!” (yes we can!) following Tuesday’s unanimous vote. The supervisors approved a new city policy of refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, a deportation scheme that relies on the cooperation of state and local law enforcement authorities.

The ‘Due Process for All’ ordinance, sponsored by District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, bars local police and sheriff’s deputies from detaining undocumented immigrants arrested for non-violent crimes for up to 48 hours past their release dates. That extra time is used by federal immigration authorities to take custody of undocumented individuals for possible deportation.

Critics of S-Comm argue that the program has separated hundreds of local families, and that it has had a significant chilling effect on victims of or witnesses to crimes, such as domestic violence, that might otherwise be reported to authorities were it not for fear of deportation.

Angela Chan, a senior staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Asian Law Caucus and a member of the San Francisco Police Commission, told KTVU there have been nearly 800 deportations in the city in the past three years under S-Comm.

According to the Applied Research Center, a progressive think tank, more than 5,000 children who have lost parents to detention or deportation are currently living in foster care across America. US authorities deported a record 409,849 undocumented immigrants last fiscal year.

“The legislation has passed and people do not have to fear Immigration and Customs Enforcement as much as they have,” Sup. Avalos said of San Francisco’s new law.

San Francisco was already extremely friendly to undocumented immigrants. As a leading ‘sanctuary city’ since 1989, all city employees are prohibited by law from helping ICE with most immigration investigations or arrests. Undocumented immigrants are also encouraged to use all city services that are available to other residents; former mayor Gavin Newsom and former police chief Heather Fong even starred in public service announcements that spread the city’s sanctuary message over the TV and radio airwaves.

The new law will take effect 30 days after it is signed by Mayor Ed Lee, who opposes the measure but cannot veto it because it was unanimously approved by the supervisors. City law enforcement leaders, including Police Chief Greg Suhr, are also opposed to the law. In order to allay concerns that the new legislation will protect violent criminals from deportation, Sup. Jane Kim (District 6) added a ‘carve-out’ excluding those convicted of violent felonies, sex trafficking, child molestation and gun crimes.

Other cities, including Los Angeles, have already passed similar ordinances.

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One Comment

  1. Harry MannOctober 7, 2013 at 6:55 pmReply

    Not to sound sarcastic, but I was just wondering what happened to all of the Mexican flags the protestors used to unfurl and wave in the air. Oh, wait, that was a bad PR move, so now all the flags are red, white and blue… Glad to see that people are actually making a little more progress towards US citizenship. Baby steps, baby steps…

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