Sheriff meeting with ICE on federal immigration program

Federal authorities agreed to a meeting with Sheriff Michael Hennessey, opening up the possibility that The City could opt out of a federal program that identifies illegal immigrants booked at County Jail.

The Secure Communities program sends fingerprint information directly from County Jail to federal immigration authorities, and it’s drawn sharp criticism from the sheriff and the progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco has a sanctuary ordinance that bars city workers from assisting federal immigration authorities unless a suspected illegal immigrant is charged with a felony. In the first two months of the program, 89 suspected illegal immigrants in The City were taken by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Of those, 50 had committed crimes and 39 were “non-criminal.”

On Tuesday, Hennessey sent a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown, ICE Executive Director David Venturella and Deputy Director Marc Rapp again asking to opt out of the Secure Communities program, alluding to a letter he already sent in May that asked the same thing.

But last week, ICE made its position about opting out clearer in a fact sheet called “Secure Communities: Setting the Record Straight.”

“I was told at the time in a telephone conversation with Mr. Rapp that there was no provision for a local jurisdiction to opt out,” Hennessey wrote. “The information provided in ‘Secure Communities: Setting the Record Straight’ would suggest that there is now a procedure in place to address such requests.”

The letter appears to have made some progress for Hennessey. On Wednesday, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said federal authorities have contacted Brown’s office and will most likely meet with Hennessey about opting out.

“Based upon those discussions, ICE and its partners will examine the options and seek a feasible resolution, which may include changing the jurisdiction’s activation status,” said Kice, who pointed out that 25 of the people booked by immigration authorities had prior convictions for serious or violent crimes.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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