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Supervisors escalate fight about sanctuary law

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City supervisors on Thursday publicly blasted the Juvenile Probation Department chief for refusing to change his policies of reporting to immigration authorities undocumented youths who have been arrested on suspicion of felonies.

During the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting, Supervisor David Campos put William Siffermann, chief of the Juvenile Probation Department, in the hot seat, questioning him for violating The City’s recently amended sanctuary law, and saying the department’s current policies are an open invitation for racial profiling.

“How is it that after a law was passed, including overriding a mayoral veto, we are now in this situation where we are having to ask this department where they are with their compliance?” Campos said. But Siffermann remained unwavering in his position that the department would be violating federal law if it shielded undocumented youths who had been arrested. He said that in May 2008, federal authorities detained probation officers, interrogated them and threatened to charge them for not reporting undocumented youths that had been arrested.

The U.S. attorney general has since convened a federal grand jury, and that investigation is still pending, Siffermann told supervisors.

“We believe any modification of this policy would create an opportunity for the release of alleged felons who are undocumented into the community and place probation officers at risk of criminal liability,” Siffermann said.

In July 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom implemented the sanctuary law, which required probation officers to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement undocumented youths who had been arrested on suspicion of a felony. In November, supervisors amended that ordinance so probation officers could only report undocumented youths when they had been convicted of a felony.

Newsom issued a statement Thursday reiterating his stance.

Campos was hoping Thursday’s meeting would put pressure on the department to begin enforcing the board’s policy.

He has threatened to propose withholding funds from the department or pursuing litigation if it doesn’t comply.

The committee continued the meeting to a future date, giving Siffermann more time to collect data.


Cracking down

Statistics from the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department regarding reporting youths to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

107 Youths reported to ICE since July 1, 2008
17 Youths released to ICE more than once
92% Youths released to ICE following felony-level finding
5 Average number of youths reported to ICE in past 16 months

Source: Juvenile Probation Department

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