Safe haven ends for felonious juveniles

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that The City will start handing youths over to immigration officials for possible deportation following threats by federal authorities to arrest any city official caught shielding juvenile illegal immigrants who have committed felonies.

The announcement comes four days after it was revealed that The City had been harboring and transporting young undocumented criminals from federal authorities at city expense. It also signals a reversal in policy from The City’s sanctuary city ordinance.

The ordinance, enacted in 1989, instructs law enforcement and city departments not to assist federal authorities unless the individual is accused or convicted of a felony. The policy is backed by Newsom and members of the Board of Supervisors.

Newsom now must resolve how The City must deal with juvenile illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes.

“These kids that have broken the law and committed felonies need to be treated the same way that those individuals that have done the same have been treated in our adult system,” Newsom said Wednesday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, in a memo to Newsom and Juvenile Probation Director William Siffermann, said federal authorities have threatened to arrest city employees who transport or harbor undocumented youths detained in the juvenile justice system.

But U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said he has backed off after days of criticizing The City’s policy of flying immigrants to their homeland after Newsom promised to develop a protocol for referring the young criminals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Developing a protocol could be difficult when balancing The City’s sanctuary city ordinance with federal and state laws regarding juveniles and immigration. The sanctuary ordinance only allows law enforcement officials to report illegal immigrants to ICE if they have been booked on a felony charge or if they were convicted of a felony.

Dozens of undocumented adults already are reported monthly. Whether convicted or not, the person is sent to ICE, which can deport the individual after a hearing.

Juveniles, however, have been shielded from that process. Authorities said there could be a question whether a juvenile can actually commit a felony. State law mandates that minors be tried under civil law instead of on criminal charges, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

He said 70 juveniles have gone through the criminal justice system since February 2007.

The Public Defender’s and the District Attorney’s offices are expected to meet with Newsom and Herrera to discuss how young illegal immigrant criminals should be handled.

IDs ‘a logical follow-through’ for sanctuary status

Despite renewed controversy about its policy protecting illegal immigrants from federal authorities, San Francisco remains committed to launching a program that will provide municipal identification cards to illegal immigrants and others living in The City access to services.

The municipal identification card program remains on track for launch this fall, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard confirmed Wednesday.

Ballard said the cards are important for city residents “to be able to prove your identity for access to city services which you are entitled to.”

“[Newsom] stands by the sanctuary city policy and the ID cards,” Ballard said.

Advocates say the cards add substance to The City’s sanctuary law, adopted in 1989, that instructs local law enforcement and city departments not to assist federal authorities in enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The cards, to be obtained from the county clerk at City Hall, are meant to open the door to city services for residents who lack an identification card, such as a driver’s license or a passport.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who introduced the legislation to establish the program, has called the cards “a logical follow-through” that builds on San Francisco’s sanctuary status. Without identification, illegal immigrants are prevented from having bank accounts, which leaves them to become targets of robberies because they keep cash in their homes and in their possession. Having an identification card that can be presented to law enforcement also will prompt more immigrants to report crimes, advocates say, and it also will allow them to gain access to services such as city-offered medical care.

When the program launches, San Francisco will become the first major city to offer the cards. New Haven, Conn., adopted a similar ID last summer and issued nearly 5,000 cards in the program’s first five months.

Launching the identification program in San Francisco will cost $730,000 next fiscal year, according to the Mayor’s Office. With cards costing $15 each, the program is expected to bring in about $100,000.

Joshua Sabatini

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