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How a nice little sanctuary law blew up

Annie Tittiger | November 28, 2011 | Story Politics

1989: The Law
San Francisco voters pass the Sanctuary City Ordinance. Among many other things, the law prohibits city employees from helping the feds pursue convicted criminals for deportation.

1992-93: The Juvenile Policy
The city tweaks the policy: Alleged felons won’t be given sanctuary. But because juveniles’ info is generally confidential, the Juvenile Probation Department can interpret the tweak to mean that juvenile felons are still protected.

2007: The P.R. Campaign
After a rush of raids by immigration cops, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the city boldly reaffirm the policy with an $83,000 ad campaign and a proposal to issue all residents—even the undocumented—an ID card guarantee city services. Not even gay marriage has earned him such hatred, Newsom claims.

2008: The Scandal
Chronicle articles uncover how the city’s juvenile justice system has flown crack dealers back to Honduras so they can return to the U.S. in good standing, put convicts in unlocked group homes (from which at least 12 easily escaped), and devoted millions of dollars to rehabilitating young felons and housing them in juvenile hall. As a result, adult thugs routinely lie about their age to receive sanctuary.

2008: The Shitstorm
Conservative groups, led by Judicial Watch, take on the SFPD in court. Right-wing groups protest throughout the city. Newsom reacts with a 180: He orders the city to report juveniles even suspected of a crime to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Then the Chron reports that Ramos was shielded as a juvenile.

2009: The Pushback
As the fed deport hundreds of minors accused of crimes—including some who have no memory of their birth nation and no family to return to—the supervisors led by David Campos, reject Newsom’s policy. After a three-month battle (i.e. Newsom veto, board overrule, Newsom refusal to enforce law, city attorney Dennis Herrera memo siding with board), the board wins—the city is supposed to report a kid to ICE only after a felony conviction.

2011: The New Tweak
Interim Mayor Ed Lee orders the city to continue sending minors only accused of a felony to ICE—if they are repeat or violent offenders, aren’t in school and have no family here. Campos says he’ll fight the change—someday, maybe.


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