Mayor Gavin Newsom pledged in July that San Francisco would no longer shield from deportation any juvenile illegal immigrants arrested for felonies. This ended an under-the-radar expansion of The City’s sanctuary ordinance, which bars city officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities beyond minimum legal requirements.
Despite never being a practice condoned in the sanctuary ordinance, previously juvenile felon illegals would be sent to poorly secured halfway houses — sometimes in Southern California — or flown home, escorted by a city probation officer, instead of being reported to U.S. authorities for possible deportation.
The lid was blown off in June when it was discovered that Edwin Ramos, alleged killer of a father and two sons in a senseless traffic confrontation, had been shielded from Immigration and Customs Enforcement while arrested here on felony charges as an undocumented teen from El Salvador.
Now, Newsom’s executive order has been detailed in an official document that premiered at a Wednesday meeting of the Juvenile Probation Commission. At the heart of the four-page protocol is the following:
“The Juvenile Probation Department shall inform the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] in every case where a person is in custody after being booked for the alleged commission of a felony and is suspected of violating the civil provisions of the immigration laws.”
Undoubtedly it is a basic policy to have the specifics of controversial city protocols on paper. Lack of such documentation must have helped develop juvenile felon asylum procedures unauthorized by the sanctuary ordinance. Now, hopefully, such loopholes will not develop within the bureaucracy again.
However, the youth and immigrant advocates who filled the commission meeting complained that the new policy is harsher than the standards for turning over adult felons to federal authorities. In fairness, some legitimate concerns were raised. There is excessive vagueness about certain new criteria that law enforcement can use for deciding if an in-custody youth is an illegal immigrant who should be reported for possible deportation.
Advocates were particularly disturbed by the rule that being in the “presence of undocumented persons in the same area where arrested” could be enough to trigger federal notification. Conceivably, this could result in something like an otherwise innocent youth being caught up in a dragnet while just happening to walk down a block where a gang fight suddenly erupted among other illegals.
It is vital that the new policy be applied fairly and that any problematic rules are promptly corrected. Otherwise, undocumented persons who are witnesses or victims of crime could be even more reluctant to come forward, thus giving violent gangs greater impunity.
Still, The City had to act decisively to help ensure that arrested juvenile illegal-alien felons are not set free to become murderous adults.