After nearly three hours of public comment, the Public Safety Committee voted two to one to send the juvenile shielding ordinance to the full board with a recommendation to approve it.
The approving votes came from co-sponsors of the legislation, Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and David Chiu, while the only opposition was from Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. She said she is not ready to support the legislation until supervisors meet in closed session to talk about how the city can be defended if they are sued.
Campos said this was the first time Alioto-Pier requested a closed meeting and he is willing to comply with her request when she approaches him. Alioto-Piers’ concern comes from a memo written by city attorney Denis Herrera, and leaked to the press, that said the city could be sued if the Campos proposal went through. Other experts have said the memo was taken out of context and the proposed amendment would be upheld in court.
The ordinance would report youth to immigration only after a judge has upheld their felony charge. At present, any undocumented juvenile arrested is reported to immigration once the suspect is charged with a felony.
Campos introduced the legislation last August. It has eight co-sponsors, which makes it veto proof when it goes before the full board at the end of the month.
“I think the committee showed that San Francisco still believes in basic rights,” Campos said. “We believe in the basic principle in due process — the hope is that the rest of the board will follow that lead.”
Campos, who is not part of the committee, began the discussion. He said that this was an issue of human rights and due process and that public safety was at stake.
Almost all attendees spoke in favor of the legislation, ranging from people affected by the current policy to Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“The current policy deprives us to fully investigate the case before the child is referred to immigration,” Adachi said. “It is good sound policy. It helps us achieve the best result for families.”
Since the policy began in July 2008 through June of this year, there have been 160 youth reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is about three percent of the people he defends, he said.
Adachi added that 19 undocumented youth have been detained since June. Four later had their felony charges dismissed, but they were still reported to immigration. These actions hurt public safety because families are less likely to cooperate if they see police officials as immigration enforces, he said.
Patricia Lee, managing attorney for the Juveniles Unit from the public defender’s office, said that those who are reported end up spending anywhere from 30 to 60 days in out-of-state detention centers. Citizens in similar situations are sent home on probation, she said.
Lee added that she currently has a client who was arrested for fighting with her sister and, although the charges were later dropped, but the woman is still facing deportation proceedings.
Other elected officials who spoke in support of the legislation were Board of Education Vice President Jane Kim and Commissioner Sandra Fewer.
Kim said that teachers are put in a difficult situation when they have to decide to call the police, because they fear the student might be deported.
“Minor amendment will have a major impact,” she said about the proposed ordinance. “It will increase rather than decrease public safety.”
The current policy affects Maria, who asked not to be identified. Her son was arrested because he was a witness in an incident that was not illegal, she said.
She did not hear from him for two weeks until an immigration officer told her that he was far away, she said.
“Neither the entire family nor him, we are not well,” she said.
They are currently fighting deportation procedures, losing days of work dealing with paperwork to try to keep their son in the country, Maria said.
One of the few who spoke against the item was San Francisco resident Colin Gallagher.
“I don’t think it is the board of supervisor’s jurisdiction to challenge US immigration law,” Gallagher said.
Other supporters who gave testimony included Angela Chan from the Asian Law Caucus, a juvenile justice attorney. She emphasized the proposed legislation can be defended.
“This is a huge victory for us, it is showing how much community support there is for it,” Chan said.
Juana Teo, of PODER, a Mission-based community organization, urged the supervisor to end the policy.
“All the communities are here protesting the injustices already carried out on our youth,” Teo said. “It is in your hands to amend so much injustice and suffering.”