San Francisco reverses policy on illegal immigrants

Tough new policies on how San Francisco will report juvenile illegal immigrants to federal authorities were publicly unveiled Wednesday, prompting outcries from immigration-rights advocates.

The new four-page protocol formally puts into writing what Mayor Gavin Newsom promised in July — that San Francisco would cease its practice of sending illegal immigrants younger than 18 years of age who commit felonies to halfway homes or their country of origin instead of reporting them to federal officials for deportation.

The policy was an extension of The City’s sanctuary ordinance, which bars city officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities unless required by federal law.

The under-the-radar policy came to light in June, when it was revealed that an alleged killer of a father and two sons was shielded by The City from deportation as a youth.

“The Juvenile Probation Department shall inform the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] in every case where a person is in custody after being booked for the alleged commission of a felony and is suspected of violating the civil provisions of the immigration laws,” the new policy reads.

The policy also specifically prohibits probation officers from escorting juvenile offenders to their home country, a practice that led to threats of legal action by the U.S. attorney.

Although Newsom, who has announced a possible run for governor, said he would direct city officials to create a protocol for surrendering youths for possible deportation that would be similar to the one for adults who commit felonies, youth and immigrant advocates who filled a meeting of The City’s Juvenile Probation Commission on Wednesday said the new policy goes beyond what is required in the adult system.

They were particularly alarmed by a long list of criteria — including being in the company of a known illegal immigrant — that officers could use to determine if a youth is an illegal immigrant. Additionally, detainees at Juvenile Hall are also now required to sign at least two forms before receiving assistance from legal groups or their local consulate.

Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Bill Sifferman called the four-page policy “responsive, conclusive and comprehensive,” adding that the protocol was “written on paper and not written on stone.”

Legal experts, including Deputy Public Defender Patricia Lee, said there is no federal law requiring The City to turn over kids to immigration officials and the changes were purely political in nature.

“If the commission won’t listen to us tonight,” Lee said, “you can be sure they’ll listen to us when this comes up in court.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Policy change

Newly drafted city protocol expands the criteria law enforcement can use to determine if an in-custody youth is an illegal immigrant who should be turned over to federal authorities for possible deportation.

Self-reporting of immigration status

Inconsistent report of immigration status

Report by parent, guardian or other reliable person

Location of parents or guardian

Method of entry into the country

Length of time in the country

Presence of undocumented persons in the same area where arrested or involved in the same illegal activity

Affiliation with a criminal street gang known to be comprised of undocumented persons

Court or criminal history showing a prior ICE hold or proceedings

Source: Juvenile Probation Department policies and procedures

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