City’s sanctuary policy battle far from over

Some city workers will be faced with the dilemma of whether to violate San Francisco law or violate state and federal law after the approval Tuesday of The City’s new sanctuary policy.

The guidelines, which set out rules for how city employees handle undocumented immigrants, previously mandated that illegal immigrant youths arrested on suspicion of a felony be reported to federal authorities at the time of arrest. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved legislation by Supervisor David Campos that would change the rules so illegal immigrant youths are turned over only after being found guilty.

The San Francisco Deputy Probation Officers Association, whose workers deal with juvenile offenders and have been tasked with reporting illegal immigrant youths to the federal government, “strongly disagrees with any local legislation that puts its members at risk of violating state or federal law,” association president Gabriel Calvillo said Wednesday.

And Calvillo threw his support behind Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“The DPOA agrees with Mayor Newsom’s decision to continue to follow the guidelines dictated by federal law on this matter,” he said. “It was my call, after consulting with our legal counsel, that this will be the best course of action to safeguard our members.”

Calvillo’s position has done little to change the Campos’ stance.

“The fact remains that the policy is legally defensible and we expect them to follow it,” Campos said. “Until a court says it is unconstitutional or illegal, city officials should be expected to follow the law.”

The law is unclear, according to a recent memo from the City Attorney’s Office about Campos’ legislation, and “until the federal courts clarify whether sanctuary city ordinances are preempted by federal law, [the office] will continue to advise city officials that The City may not penalize its employees for reporting this information to ICE.”

Officials in City Hall expect Newsom’s stance to ignore the law will ultimately be decided by the courts when a lawsuit is filed against The City, either for violating the new policy or for adhering to it.

It’s not uncommon for The City to enact legislation that becomes the target of legal challenges.

“The legislative authority of the Board and the Mayor includes the prerogative to push the limits of existing law, and even to attempt to shape case law, as long as there are legally tenable arguments to support doing so,” a recent city attorney memo said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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