Sanctuary City — Redefined
There are many things I love about San Francisco. The vibrant communities…the energy of its residents…its progressive politics. In 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to maintain San Francisco as a sanctuary city for immigrants. He promised no employee of the city and county of San Francisco would help with immigration enforcement. This made me love San Francisco even more.
Unfortunately, my love affair with San Francisco suffered a serious blow. After making that promise, Mayor Newsom went back on his word. In 2008, county employees began collaborating with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents to deport children upon arrest. These children had no hearings and no attorneys. Their charges didn’t even have to be sustained. They were ripped away from their families and deported without even the semblance of due process.
From 2008 to 2009, more than 160 children have been deported in San Francisco.
An alliance of immigrant and civil rights groups organized to keep families together and to restore basic due process. As a result of their mobilization, the community began to speak out against this harmful and unfair policy. Last fall, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 in favor of legislation that required youth to be turned over to federal immigration agents only after they have been convicted of a felony—not merely upon arrest.
This was a victory for advocates and the community alike. At the very least, children in San Francisco would now have their due process rights restored and could fight their cases. However, this victory was short lived. Mayor Newsom and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera have refused to implement the new policy.
Here’s the thing. Federal law does not require city or county employees to report individuals to ICE even if they are determined undocumented upon arrest. Mayor Newsom is requiring the juvenile probation department to make referrals. Under federal law, if an employee chooses not to refer a child to ICE under this scenario, there is no violation and therefore no penalty. So why is Mayor Newsom breaking his own city’s law? For public safety? More than 160 families have been torn apart and everyday more and more children are taken away. I’m no politician but tearing apart families does not improve public safety.
I still love San Francisco. It is a model city for many reasons. But it shouldn’t rest on its progressive laurels. Breaking up families shouldn’t be a part of any city’s agenda.
To Learn more about the effects of harmful immigration polices, please watch the film "Sentenced Home"
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