Six days after police arrested Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, as a suspect in the slayings of a father and his two sons, federal immigration officials petitioned The City for access to the records on foreign-born inmates in San Francisco jails.
The request, according to Tim Counts, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, was routine, but it highlights the ongoing tension between the by-the-books federal agency and San Francisco's liberal thinking.
The agency has made ongoing requests for access to jailed noncitizens, Counts told The Examiner, asserting that The City's sanctuary laws are not only protecting “criminal aliens,” but allowing them to jeopardize the public.
The City's Sanctuary City Ordinance prohibits city officials from reporting illegal immigrants unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant. Local law enforcement officers may inform ICE that they have arrested someone for a felony offense or who has a prior felony conviction, if officers become aware that the arrested person is an undocumented immigrant.
Ramos, 21, was arrested on June 25 and subsequently charged with fatally shooting Anthony Bologna and his two oldest sons during a traffic encounter in the Excelsior district.
On July 1, ICE sent Sheriff Michael Hennessy a letter saying that the agency's ability to identify "foreign nationals” that are in custody in the San Francisco jail was limited because the department wouldn't provide access to booking logs and records.
On July 9, Hennessy shot back a response that politely refused to grant such access, saying that ICE's letter, “does not direct me to any specific law which requires me to provide you access to the jail records you seek.”
“We've been going back and forth for quite some time,” Counts said.
The relationship became more contentious earlier this week, when ICE charged that The City had earlier thisyear released Ramos before checking to see if he should be held for deportation — contradicting Hennessey's assertion that federal officials were properly notified.
Ramos and another man were arrested and held in late March, after police discovered a gun used in a double homicide in the car Ramos was driving. He was released April 2 after the District Attorney's Office did not file charges.
On Wednesday, ICE also sent a letter to Mayor Gavin Newsom asking for additional access to jail records.
Newsom's office referred calls for comment to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department.
Anatomy of a murder
Timeline of events leading up to Edwin Ramos’ plea on three counts of murder in the deaths of Anthony Bologna, 49, and his sons, Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16.
Edwin Ramos in custody on gun charges
District Attorney’s Office drops gun charges and releases Ramos
Bologna and his two sons are shot dead following a traffic altercation
Ramos is arrested on suspicion of killing the Bolognas
ICE sends letter to San Francisco Sheriff’s Office asking for access to jail records
Sheriff’s Office rejects ICE’s request for access, citing The City’s sanctuary laws
ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. asks Mayor Gavin Newsom to ease The City’s sanctuary laws, the same day Ramos pleads not guilty to the crimes.