S.F. Dems Blast Mayor In Sanctuary Case

S.F. Dems blast mayor in sanctuary city case

By Heather Knight
The Houston Chronicle, March 27, 2009

The San Francisco Democratic Party has thrust the city's controversial sanctuary city policy back into the spotlight, overwhelmingly passing a resolution blasting the mayor for turning over undocumented youths arrested for felonies to federal authorities.

The resolution passed by the influential Democratic County Central Committee late Wednesday night also accuses police of racial profiling in making traffic stops in neighborhoods with big immigrant populations.

The advisory resolution was written by DCCC member and 2010 supervisorial candidate Debra Walker and co-sponsored by well-known city leaders, including Supervisor Chris Daly and former Supervisor Aaron Peskin. Supervisors David Campos, Eric Mar and David Chiu also voted for the resolution.

Campos, who arrived in this country as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, said it's essential that undocumented youths arrested for crimes are found guilty before city officials hand them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation.

Currently, the city notifies ICE when the youth is booked for a crime. The youth is tried on the criminal charges but is turned over to federal authorities regardless of the outcome.

The policy was put into effect by Mayor Gavin Newsom last year after The Chronicle reported that the city was shielding young felons from deportation. Newsom said the city's sanctuary city policy, which allows undocumented immigrants to access services and report crimes without fear of deportation, was never meant to protect criminals.

Immigrants have reported being under increased scrutiny by police since the policy change.

'There's a real sense in the community that we are moving away from being a sanctuary city, and it's important for the Democratic Party to take a stand,' Campos said.

Deputy Police Chief Kevin Cashman said racial profiling is strictly prohibited under department policy: 'We're one of the most culturally sensitive departments in the United States.'

An amendment introduced by DCCC member and 2010 supervisorial candidate Scott Wiener to specify the sanctuary city policy doesn't extend to violent felons was handily rejected by the group. Another amendment to denounce the federal government's immigration policy was also rejected.

'One has to wonder why the Democratic Party feels the need to go on record attacking the mayor and the police for federal immigration policy,' Wiener said. 'It was about petty San Francisco politics.'

Angela Chan, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said there's nothing petty about standing up for the 70 to 100 youths who have been handed over to immigration authorities without a court hearing since Newsom's policy change last year.

'I would hope that as mayor and someone running for governor, he could deal with urgent situations in a more thoughtful manner,' Chan said.

Nathan Ballard, Newsom's press secretary, said the city has no say in immigration policy and that the Democratic Party should take up their fight with President Obama instead.