Chief wants compromise on sanctuary policy

As controversial legislation about San Francisco’s sanctuary policy moves toward a vote, the new police chief told The Examiner he’s seeking a balance between opposing sides.

Supervisor David Campos has proposed legislation that would make it so illegal immigrant youths charged with felonies are reported to federal authorities only if they are convicted.

The current sanctuary policy requires that youths be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being arrested on suspicion of a felony. That policy was put in place by Mayor Gavin Newsom after it was reported last year that The City was shielding undocumented youths convicted of felonies from deportation.

Police Chief George Gascón, a Cuban immigrant and a sanctuary city supporter, said one possibility that he’s discussed is waiting for the District Attorney’s Office to file felony charges before the Juvenile Probation Department contacts federal immigration authorities.

Gascón said immigration laws can be used as a tool for deporting hardened criminals. But on the other hand, he has seen teens who have lived in the U.S. since early childhood deported for traffic violations.

“They’re sent to Mexico, where there is absolutely no social basis for them,” Gascón said. “They don’t even understand the culture. They speak the language very poorly.”

The key, he said, is finding a “thoughtful approach.”

Campos said he respects the chief for trying to compromise, but the idea does not go far enough.

“The way our system works is that due process lets an impartial judge make the decision,” Campos said. “Without trusting judges to do their job, the system doesn’t work.”

The Mayor’s Office, which has warned that Campos’ legislation could jeopardize the entire sanctuary policy, said the current procedure is already balanced.

“Over time, many intriguing policy ideas such as this one have been floated,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said. “However, while he remains open to argument, the mayor believes the current policy strikes the right balance between protecting public safety and safeguarding the rights of accused criminals.”

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, Erica Derryck, said decisions on charges are based on the facts of the case.

“Someone’s immigration status is not relevant to any charging decision made by our office,” she said.

The legislation about the policy change goes before the full Board of Supervisors on Oct. 20.

Seeking change

The City’s policies on reporting illegal immigrant youths to ICE are in flux.

The way it is now:
The mayor and the Juvenile Probation Commission developed a policy of reporting illegal immigrant youths to ICE if they are “in custody after being booked for the alleged commission of a felony”

The way Campos wants it:
An illegal immigrant youth would have to be arrested, booked, charged, arraigned and given a hearing before a juvenile judge who then determines his or her guilt before being reported to ICE

The way Gascón sees it:
An illegal immigrant youth would not be reported to ICE when booked, allowing the District Attorney’s Office the chance to see if there is enough evidence against the child; once the youth is charged, juvenile probation contacts ICE

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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