SF promises to keep city IDs of undocumented immigrants private

San Francisco city officials will not hand over the personal information of undocumented immigrants if the federal government requests it under incoming President Donald Trump, Mayor Ed Lee said on Wednesday.

While San Francisco leaders are preparing for the possibility that Trump will cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities, the mayor is turning his attention toward protecting information that city workers have collected from undocumented residents who have applied for municipal identification cards.

“[San Francisco] is committed to protecting the rights of immigrants and their families living in our communities and will take the necessary steps to ensure those rights,” Lee said in a statement.

While the information collected is limited, Supervisor John Avalos said that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could use the private information to “track down family members” and boost deportation efforts.

“We should brace ourselves for an invasion of privacy,” Avalos said. “The resident has the card, but The City probably has paperwork and private information that the federal government, ICE could use to widen their net.”

It’s unclear how the federal government could compel San Francisco to release the information.

San Francisco has recorded the names, dates of birth and emergency contact information of more than 21,000 residents who have received an SF City ID Card since 2009, according to the Office of the County Clerk. The cards were designed as a way for undocumented residents to have proof of their identity and access to various city services.

“The information we ask for is simply proof of residence and there is an extremely limited collection of information,” the County Clerk’s office said in a statement, noting that addresses are not stored. “We honor and protect the rights privacy of our residents.”

With the mayor’s announcement, San Francisco is following in the footsteps of New York City, where city leaders have vowed to withhold from the federal government information collected from municipal identification cards.

New York is reportedly considering deleting the information collected through the program. The Mayor’s Office would not say whether San Francisco has considered the same.

Regardless, City Attorney’s Office spokesperson John Cote said San Francisco is bound by law to keep the names and other private information from the program confidential “to the maximum extent permitted by applicable laws.”

Trump’s plans for stricter immigration controls present a quandary for sanctuary cities like New York and San Francisco, where law enforcement agencies are limited in their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and institute mass deportations. San Francisco, in comparison, passed a ballot measure last week that allows undocumented parents to vote in school board elections.

City officials still have to figure out how Proposition N will be rolled out in terms of registering undocumented immigrants to vote, but nonetheless the measure will likely place another source of their information in San Francisco’s hands.

“There’s going to be many places where people’s private information is going to be stored,” Avalos said. “Everyone wants their information to be private and not to be used in an investigation against them.”

“We should be able to live up to that despite the rhetoric of the Trump presidency.”

Michael Barba
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Michael Barba

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