Top officials gather for sanctuary policy dialogue

High-ranking city officials and law enforcement officials are scheduled to gather in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office today to hash out issues with San Francisco’s sanctuary policy for illegal immigrants, which is under attack in the courts and subject to changes from new legislation.

Newsom is holding the meeting with several members of the Board of Supervisors, police Chief George Gascón and other city officials from law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, and the City Attorney’s Office, city officials told The Examiner.

The meeting is expected to address possible changes The City will have to make to its sanctuary policy as a result of the Fonseca v. Fong lawsuit.

Charles Fonseca filed the suit in May 2007 after police failed to respond to a public-records request asking for the number of immigrants who have been reported to federal authorities. A state law requires that police notify immigration officials when they arrest someone for one of 14 specific drug crimes and they believe they’re not a U.S. citizen.

The case had been relatively quiet, without a case management date set or a single hearing since an appellate court moved it back to San Francisco Superior Court, according to Fonseca’s lawyer, David Klehm.

Proposed legislation, however, has raised concerns about the lawsuit.

Introduced by Supervisor David Campos, the legislation, which Newsom strongly opposes, would prevent local law enforcement from releasing illegal immigrant youths arrested on felony charges to the feds unless they are convicted.

A legal memo Newsom requested the city attorney to draft, which the mayor released to the public in August, said the legislation “may delay [Fonseca] settlement efforts and inject into the case the issue of reporting juveniles” and would “induce a new legal challenge,” putting in jeopardy The City’s entire sanctuary policy.

Campos’ legislation will be heard before the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee on Monday.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty — the crucial eighth vote on the board that would prevent Newsom from being able to veto the legislation — said he views the meeting as a chance to discuss the legal memo.

“I have questions to ask,” said Dufty, who also said he continues to support the legislation.

Campos, who will attend the meeting, said his proposed legislation is just as legally defensible as The City’s efforts to grant same-sex marriage and provide heath care to workers, two initiatives Newsom takes credit for and that San Francisco has ended up defending in court. He said the youths are “entitled to due process.”

San Francisco’s sanctuary policy was established in the 1980s and is meant to allow illegal immigrants to report crimes, access city services and engage in city government without fear of deportation. Last year, it was reported that The City was shielding undocumented youths convicted of felonies from deportation, prompting Newsom to change the policy.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Examiner Staff Writer Brent Begin contributed to this report.

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