Lawyers for a Salvadoran man living in San Francisco say he was detained by federal immigration officials after reporting a stolen car to police, which is a violation of The City sanctuary laws meant to prevent city officials from enforcing federal immigration laws.
“When Mission District resident Pedro Figueroa asked police to help find his stolen car, the last thing he and his family expected was arrest, extended detention, and deportation,” noted his lawyers in a statement about the case. “Yet Pedro has been trapped in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention for 45 days and counting, at risk of deportation to danger and even death in El Salvador.”
Police say they did not violate any city laws meant to encourage all to come forward and report crimes no matter their immigration status, although an ICE agent was waiting outside of the station after the department called the agency when researching a warrant.
“We do not cooperate on immigration matters,” said Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
On Dec. 2, 2015 Figueroa, a undocumented immigrant with an eight-year-old daughter who remains with his American wife, went to the Southern Police Station in Mission Bay to report a stolen car.
Andraychak said officers asked for his license to verify he could drive, and then asked for proof of ownership, both of which are normal steps in such cases.
Police also ran his name, to check for warrants. They found a failure to appear warrant in the system from Homeland Security, but couldn’t figure out whether it warranted an arrest. Figueroa was detained as they looked into the case, according to the police. As part of that research the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s warrant bureau called ICE, but could not find out details on the warrant so Figueroa was released.
“A local ICE agent did show up at Southern police station,” said Andraychak. “Unfortunately the ICE agent was parked outside.”
How the agent came to be outside of the station where Figueroa had been detained is not clear. “SFPD didn’t call ICE,” said James Schwab, a spokesman for the agency.
ICE did have this statement on the case. “Pedro Zarceno-Figueroa was taken into custody Dec. 2 by officers assigned to one of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams,” said the statement. “The Fugitive Operations officers targeted Mr. Zarceno-Figueroa for arrest based upon his conviction for DUI and an outstanding order of removal issued by an immigration judge in 2005. Mr.Zarceno-Figueroa’s case is now being reviewed by the immigration courts to determine whether he has a legal basis to remain in the U.S.”
Supervisor John Avalos called the detention of Figueroa is troubling.
“I am very concerned about this case and have joined the community’s call for transparency and accountability from SFPD and ICE,” Avalos said. “When local law enforcement is entangled with deportation, our families, our civil rights, and our public safety all suffer. We need to make sure our police aren’t acting as deportation agents.”
The case comes months after the very political fallout from the death of Kate Steinle, who was killed by a ricochet bullet after an undocumented man fired a pistol on Pier 14. That man had been in County Jail, but was released after charges related to an old warrant were dropped.
Newly elected Sheriff Vicki Hennessy said she would rescind a department memo sent out by former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi baring communication with ICE in all but a few cases.