SF Juvenile Justice Center, Monday July 20, 2015. (Michael Ares/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

SF Juvenile Probation Department communicates with feds on immigration

San Francisco’s Juvenile Probation Department booked 21 undocumented immigrants into juvenile hall between July 1, 2014 and June 9.

However, none were handed over to federal immigration officials because of a city law that bars most cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to data from the Juvenile Probation Department.

“Our department is a strong supporter of The City’s sanctuary statute. We believe very strongly that we have to do everything we possibly can to help support immigrants in our community,” said Allen Nance, chief juvenile probation officer.

The issue of undocumented immigrants in San Francisco jails has become a political hot potato after the July 1 shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, who was allegedly killed by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.

The defendant is a 45-year-old Mexican citizen who was released from a federal prison in Victorville on March 26 after serving five years on an illegal immigration conviction. He was not deported by federal officials and was remanded to San Francisco on a 20-year-old drug warrant.

He was released several weeks later after the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department found no outstanding warrants on Lopez-Sanchez. On March 27, the charge was dropped.

Lopez-Sanchez, who was released from County Jail in April, claims he found the gun allegedly used to kill Steinle. He claimed the weapon accidentally went off and has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

In the aftermath of the homicide, Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi have been throwing barbs at one another about who is at fault for Lopez-Sanchez’s release from county jail and what might have been done to prevent it.

Lee says the Sheriff’s Department should have been communicating with federal authorities on Lopez-Sanchez’s status.

But Mirkarimi contends such communication amounts to a violation of city law and the constitutional rights governing due process rights.

The City’s Juvenile Probation Department already has that kind of communication and contends it is within city law. Still, it’s hard to say if increased communication would have made a difference in the case of Lopez-Sanchez.

Juvenile Probation policy states the department is to communicate with ICE when it has an inmate that is believed to be undocumented or if inmate is facing a felony charge. If that’s the case, they have no issue handing over that person to ICE, according to Nance.

While the department has such a policy, if an undocumented inmate like Lopez-Sanchez was in their custody and had a rap sheet with a series of felonies of any type, the department would take a second look and probably notify ICE.

“I think we would have taken a harder look at that case” said Nance of the Lopez-Sanchez case. “We have a policy yes, but we have to look at all the facts.”

In contrast, the Sheriff’s Department bars communications with ICE and will only hold people wanted by immigration authorities when a warrant or court order has been produced, hence following Fourth Amendment guidelines on due process.

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