Supes bolster sanctuary policy

A move to ensure illegal immigrant youths busted for felony crimes will not be handed over to federal authorities when they are arrested in San Francisco was approved, though it remains unclear if the law will result in any changes.

The move by the Board of Supervisors — which opponents say could leave The City prone to lawsuits and the entire sanctuary city policy at risk — undoes a change made last year by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

San Francisco’s sanctuary policy — a set of rules governing how city officials handle undocumented immigrants — was thrust into the nation’s spotlight last year when it was reported The City was not reporting undocumented youth convicted of felonies for deportation.

Amidst the controversy and the news that an alleged illegal immigrant accused of killing a father and two sons had been shielded by The City, Newsom implemented policy changes, which included the provision that undocumented immigrant youths arrested for felonies are reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation.

In an 8-2 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors struck down that change by approving legislation that ensures youths arrested on felonies are not reported unless they are convicted of a felony or charged as adults for the crime. It’s estimated that 160 youths were reported to ICE since the policy change in July 2008.

Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the legislation, said the proposal is a “balance between two extremes.”

“We are trying to protect the very basic principal that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

Supervisor Carmen Chu opposed the legislation along with Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. Chu said she was “uncomfortable” with not reporting a youth upon a charge, expressing concern about what might happen in the interim, such offenders not showing up to court.

Newsom has spoken strongly against the proposal and said it would jeopardize the entire sanctuary city policy by prompting legal challenges.

Whether the legislation actually results in the policy change is another matter.

“The bill can’t be enforced,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said. “We can’t put our juvenile officers in the horrible position of breaking the law just because the supervisors want to make a bold statement. The bill is just a symbolic gesture.”

A recently released confidential city attorney legal memo said that due to the legislation’s conflict with federal law, “we have advised and will continue to advise the Juvenile Probation Department that it cannot take any adverse employment action against an employee who provides information to immigration authorities about a juvenile.”

But Campos disagreed. Newsom “took an oath to uphold the laws of this country, this state and ordinances that are enacted by this legislative body and we expect him to do just that,” Campos said. “If we get to a point where [Newsom] is failing to do that, then the Board of Supervisors needs to figure out what its options are.”

The board will take a second and final vote on the bill Tuesday. Newsom then has 10 days to veto it, which he said he will. Then the board can overturn the veto with eight votes, at which point the legislation would become a law.

How they voted

A “yes” vote signified the supervisor approved of the sanctuary city policy to make it so illegal immigrant youths are reported to federal officials only after being convicted of a felony. A “no” vote signified the supervisor was against the change to the policy.

Supervisor    Yes    No
Mar, Dist. 1    ?   
Alioto-Pier, Dist. 2*       
Chiu, Dist. 3    ?   
Chu, Dist. 4        ?
Mirkarimi, Dist. 5    ?   
Daly, Dist. 6    ?   
Elsbernd, Dist. 7        ?
Dufty, Dist. 8    ?   
Campos, Dist. 9    ?   
Maxwell, Dist. 10    ?   
Avalos, Dist. 11    ?   

* Supervisor Alioto-Pier was absent due to a death in the family

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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