Homeland Security money hangs in balance in immigration debate

Tens of millions of dollars earmarked for Bay Area emergency preparedness and disaster response could evaporate if the U.S. Senate passes legislation aimed at cutting funding to so-called sanctuary cities such as San Francisco.

The City, along with Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Diego and others, provides aid to illegal immigrants without reporting them to authorities, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Under the two bills passed by the House of Representatives last month, San Francisco’s Office of Emergency Services & Homeland Security stands to lose the bulk of its funding, which pays for terrorism prevention and other emergency operations planning.

San Francisco received $18.7 million last year and $26.3 million in 2004. Until this year, San Francisco was funded independently, while this year’s money is earmarked to cover the entire Bay Area, which received $22 million in federal funding.

San Francisco Supervisor Gerald Sandoval is today asking other city lawmakers to support a resolution designed to reinforce support for undocumented workers in San Francisco, despite the potential loss of federal dollars from the Department of Homeland Security.

Sandoval’s proposed resolution criticizes the current federal allotment.

“The federal government has already jeopardized the security of Northern Californian cities by providing the area with less than 10 percent of the $333 million in Homeland Security funding sought,” a portion of the proposed resolution reads.

Still, without those federal dollars, money that pays for training exercises, equipment, public health, fire, police and public safety would be gone, said Laura Adleman, a spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security.

“We believe Homeland Security dollarsare very important to San Francisco,” Adleman said. “We’ve been indicated as an urban area, meaning there’s a threat” of terrorism.

Sandoval said this is a watershed moment and that Mayor Gavin Newsom has been nearly silent, in contrast to New York’s Mayor Micheal Bloomberg. Bloomberg last week vowed to engage in “one heck of a battle” if the federal dollars disappear.

The mayor is proud of San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, mayoral spokesman Peter Ragone said.

Still, Ragone said the Senate could pass different versions of the House bills, thereby making the whole issue irrelevant.

“We’re waiting,” Ragone said. “We’ll wait until the final legislation passes.”

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