A San Francisco woman and her children will be deported to Australia on Friday after her teenage son was arrested on suspicion of punching a classmate and stealing 46 cents during an after-school program.
The case spotlights the politically charged battle about how to enforce The City’s sanctuary policy, and whether officials should shield undocumented youths from deportation when they are suspected of a felony crime.
The undocumented 13-year-old boy, who only has been identified as part of the Washington family, was reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in January after he punched another youth and stole his money, according to Angela Chan, staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, which is providing immigration legal services to the family.
Chan said the teenager has been charged with robbery, assault and extortion. She said the charges include a felony.
The teen had been living in San Francisco with his undocumented mother, 5-year-old brother and stepfather, who is a U.S. citizen, for more than a year. The family's deportation will bar them from coming back to the United States for at least three to 10 years, Chan said.
According to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office, the deportation remains consistent with federal law.
“We are implementing The City’s sanctuary city policy, which, according to the city attorney, is in compliance with state and federal law,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said Sunday. “We don’t want to put at risk law-abiding San Francisco residents, including the undocumented, by shielding criminal behavior.”
In November, the Board of Supervisors passed a sanctuary ordinance — sponsored by Supervisor David Campos — that prohibits probation officers from reporting undocumented youths unless they are convicted of a felony.
But the mayor and City Attorney Dennis Herrera advised Juvenile Probation Department chief William Siffermann that he would be violating federal and state law if his department shielded undocumented youths until they were convicted of a felony.
Campos pushed the change in response to Newsom’s 2008 policy that stated all illegal immigrant youths who are arrested on suspicion of a felony are released to federal authorities.
Siffermann could not be reached for comment Sunday, but he issued a statement last month saying he had no intention of complying with the recently passed sanctuary ordinance, saying he believed he would be violating federal law.
Frustrated by the noncompliance, Campos is threatening to pursue a legal challenge and propose withholding city funding from the Juvenile Probation Department as long as it ignores the law, he said.
Campos called for a public hearing Thursday, where he hopes to get some answers from Siffermann.
“This is the point we have been trying to make,” Campos said. “This is yet another example of families being torn apart over something that the great majority of people would say doesn’t warrant deportation.”
2.6 million Number of unauthorized immigrants living in California as of 2009
7 Drop between 2008 and 2009 in the percentage of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S.
160 San Francisco youths reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement upon being arrested since July 2008
8-15 Average number of San Francisco cases reported to ICE each month
Sources: Department of Homeland Security, Asian Law Caucus