Legal fight continues over sanctuary policy

Legal wrangling that is heating up continues to keep the new sanctuary city policy, which went into place Thursday, in legal limbo.

The supervisor who drafted the legislation — which changes how The City reports illegal immigrant youths to federal authorities if they are arrested for a felony — called on the city attorney to investigate whether Mayor Gavin Newsom can ignore the law passed by the Board of Supervisors.

The sanctuary city policy, which was put into place in 1989, was altered last year by Newsom after several high-profile incidents, including the revelation that San Francisco was sending illegal immigrant youths out of the country. The policy put into place required illegal immigrant youths arrested for felonies to be reported to federal officials at the time of the arrest.

Supervisor David Campos introduced — and passed — legislation that changed the policy, so illegal youths are reported only after being convicted of a crime. The Board of Supervisors approved the legislation. It was vetoed by Newsom, but that veto was overridden by the board.

Newsom’s office Thursday reiterated the stance that the policy is against federal law, and that The City is prohibited from forcing workers to violate federal law. U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello recently said he would not provide assurances that city workers who implement the law would be immune from federal prosecution.

In an effort Thursday to coax Newsom to comply with the law, Campos asked City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a letter, for a written opinion on whether the mayor has the authority to ignore an enacted law.

In the letter, Campos said the mayor’s reluctance to implement the law is a hit to the democratic process and places too much power with Newsom.

“We may have a strong-mayor system of government, but it is not a monarchy,” Campos wrote.

Campos says the new law should have gone into effect Thursday, but other city officials, including the city attorney, say there is a 60-day timeframe for implementation.

The supervisor said the Juvenile Probation Department has had “ample opportunity” to prepare for compliance since passage of the law.

Calls to the Juvenile Probation Department asking whether the law is being implemented were referred back to the Mayor’s Office.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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