About a dozen children have returned to the San Francisco criminal justice system, some after committing more crimes, despite being referred to immigration officials under Mayor Gavin Newsom’s policy of reporting undocumented minors to federal authorities.
Detailed numbers are murky because the Juvenile Probation Department does not keep records that differentiate between kids who are referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and those who are not. The records of youths are also sealed from the public. Juvenile Probation Chief William Sifferman said, however, that there has been some recidivism among deported youths.
San Francisco’s sanctuary policy — a set of rules governing how city officials handle undocumented immigrants — was thrust into the nation’s spotlight when it was reported The City was not reporting undocumented youths convicted of felonies for deportation.
Compounded with the news that an alleged illegal immigrant accused of killing a father and two sons had been shielded by The City, Newsom implemented policy changes that included a provision that undocumented immigrant youths arrested for felonies are reported to ICE for possible deportation.
Among the handful of youths referred to ICE who have returned to The City’s juvenile detention center are some who have been caught dealing drugs in San Francisco while others have only identified themselves to juvenile probation as part of their release conditions, juvenile officials said.
“I have seen some of these cases myself, and our staff has come back and been concerned about what they’re seeing,” said Assistant Chief Probation Officer Allan Nance.
Both sides of the heated debate say the number of re-offending youths is small compared to recidivism rates for the local juvenile population, as well as for adults.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office defends several immigrant youths in similar cases, said he has seen about 200 youths reported to ICE since the policy went into effect. He said the dozen or so youths who returned to the system are known as unaccompanied juveniles. They are on their own, without families and often at the mercy of human traffickers.
“The more alarming trend is that there are more accompanied children that are being refereed to ICE for minor offenses,” Adachi said, referring to children who have family roots in San Francisco.
Next week, the Juvenile Probation Department will continue with its policy despite a new ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in October, that mandates that youths arrested on felonies are not reported unless they are convicted of a felony or charged as adults for the crime.
Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said Friday that the administration will continue to cooperate with federal authorities when undocumented youths are arrested for felonies.