Sheriff repeats sanctuary city claim

San Francisco’s sheriff has renewed a call to opt out of a federal program that defies The City’s sanctuary policy by identifying and deporting illegal immigrants even if they haven’t committed a felony.

Sheriff Michael Hennessey and a majority of supervisors have blasted a federal program that takes fingerprint information from jails and sends it directly to immigration authorities. The City’s sanctuary ordinance prevents city officials from assisting immigration authorities unless a felony is suspected. Hennessey called on the California Department of Justice to shield information from the federal government.

Attorney General Jerry Brown and Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied Hennessey’s earlier request. Now, Brown’s office stands by its decision even though federal authorities last week explicitly told local jurisdictions they can opt out of the program.

ICE released a fact sheet Thursday called “Secure Communities: Setting the Record Straight.” The document was released after a public records request showed that about 26 percent of people deported through the Secure Communities program in nine months were considered non-criminals. 

The fact sheet caught the eye of local immigrant rights attorneys because it seemed like a reversal on a previous statement on opting out of the program. It said that if a jurisdiction wishes to opt out of the program, it must formally notify the state and ICE in writing.

Then ICE would set up a meeting and try to come to a resolution, “which may include adjusting the jurisdiction’s activation date in or removing the jurisdiction from the deployment plan.”

On Tuesday, Hennessey sent a letter to Brown, ICE Executive Director David Venturella and Deputy Director Marc Rapp once again asking to opt out of the Secure Communities program, alluding to the May letter.

“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.”

However, a spokeswoman for ICE, Virginia Kice, said because Brown has already told the federal government the state will participate, San Francisco must also participate.

“The state attorney general has made it clear that this is a statewide public safety issue,” Kice said.

A spokesperson for Brown, Christine Gasparac, affirmed in an e-mail, “Our position has not changed.”

Info sent to ICE

San Francisco statistics from June 8 to July 31:

3,701 Records sent to ICE
280 Illegal immigrants matched
89 Arrested or booked into ICE custody
25 For most serious offenses
25 For lesser offenses
39 Non-criminal
10 Immigrants deported or returned to home country
1 For most serious offenses
3 For lesser offenses
6 Non-criminal

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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