By Alex Emslie and Greg Zeman
A 2008 immigration policy instituted by Mayor Gavin Newsom is being challenged by the Board of Supervisors.
The legislation authored by District 9 Supervisor David Campos would amend the policy, providing greater protection from deportation for undocumented juveniles accused of criminal conduct. Seven other supervisors co-sponsored the legislation introduced Aug. 17.
The San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee is a diverse coalition of over 65 community organizations, unaffiliated with the board, that support the amendments which they say “restore due process rights to immigrant youth.” The committee accentuated the fact that many undocumented juveniles, particularly those from Latin America and the Caribbean Islands, come to the United States fleeing extreme poverty and gang warfare.
“I’m here now representing 130 families who have been destroyed by this new policy by Gavin Newsom,” said the mother of one juvenile facing deportation. “It is an unjust process for young people, and I want him to know this.”
The unidentified woman was addressing a sympathetic crowd at an Aug. 18 press conference on the steps of City Hall. Roughly 200 people encircled the woman, some waving signs reading “No human is illegal,” or “Ningun ser humano es ilegal!”
San Francisco’s Asian Law Caucus was instrumental in writing the legislation and organizing the press conference. African, Filipino, Arab, Asian and Latino American groups were all represented there, demonstrating that immigration issues affect a diverse population in this country.
“The reason why many of us are wearing black today is because we are mourning the fact that there are 130 undocumented youths who are facing deportation,” said Rachel Ebora, Director of Community Engagement at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.
San Francisco passed the City and County of Refuge Ordinance — or Sanctuary Ordinance — in 1989. The ordinance bars city departments and employees from aiding the federal government in immigration enforcement efforts. “The ordinance is rooted in the sanctuary movement of the 1980’s, when churches across the country provided refuge to Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their countries,” according to San Francisco’s official government Web site.
In 2008, the mayor altered the city’s long-standing policy of passive noncompliance with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under policy 8.12 of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, San Francisco law enforcement is required to report suspected undocumented juveniles arrested for a felony crime to ICE.
“The existing practice reports children the moment they are booked for something, irrespective of whether they did it,” Campos said.
Once approved by the Board of Supervisors, the new amendments to the Sanctuary Ordinance will be passed on to the mayor’s office, though it remains to be seen whether Newsom will approve the legislation. Eight of 11 supervisors are needed to override a veto from the mayor and there are currently eight supervisors who support the ordinance. If one supervisor backs down from support of the ordinance, the board’s veto-proof majority could be shattered.
“I actually don’t know where he stands on it. It’s just insurance,” District 11 Supervisor John Avalos said about the board’s veto-proof majority. “I’m hoping he’ll be supportive and we’ll have his signature on this legislation.”
Avalos added that Newsom could have simply ended policy 8.12, but the board of supervisors was forced to draft the amendment.
“It’s a sanctuary city with lots of holes in the policy,” Avalos said.
In the past, Newsom has re-affirmed San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies, going as far as to institute a city identification card. The card identifies the holder as a San Francisco resident, eligible for access to all city services, regardless of their immigration status. However, the mayor has publicly criticized the board’s pending legislation.
“The supervisors are putting at risk the entire Sanctuary City Ordinance, which we’ve worked hard to protect,” Newsom told the Chronicle Aug. 20. Newsom and the city attorney’s office are worried that returning to pre-2008 sanctuary policies would leave the city open to federal legal challenges.
The mayor’s more stringent policy concerning ICE notification was enacted in response to public outrage surrounding the triple homicide of San Francisco resident Tony Bologna and two of his three sons in June 2008. Bologna and his sons were brutally gunned down three blocks from their home in the Excelsior district. Bologna’s surviving son, who witnessed the incident, identified undocumented El Salvadoran immigrant Edwin Ramos as the shooter.
The criminal investigation revealed Ramos was arrested multiple times prior to his arrest for the Bologna homicide — twice as a minor — but the Sanctuary Ordinance kept officials from reporting his immigration status to ICE for those offenses. The new policy is an attempt to avoid any repetition of the Ramos incident.
Campos and his coalition feel that Newsom went too far with juvenile probation department policy 8.12, to the point of compromising the due process rights of juveniles.
“What this legislation does is it tries to strike the right balance between two extremes,” Campos said. If the new legislation is passed, San Francisco will report juveniles to federal immigration officers, but only after they have been afforded due process and convicted of a crime.
Guardsman Staff Photographer Ramsey El-Qare contributed to this story.