By SHIKIRI HIGHTOWER
The Board of Supervisors sent a strong message protecting the rights of undocumented children Tuesday night by passing a resolution by an 8-to-3 vote in favor of adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
District 9 Supervisor David Campos introduced the resolution by acknowledging Cesar Chavez.
“Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday. Let’s give him the gift that every child will be protected and respected,” he said as some in the crowd clapped.
Mayor Gavin Newsom changed the city’s policy on undocumented youth last year so that when an undocumented minor is arrested the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, is informed and the juvenile is often deported.
Public defender Jeff Adachi testified at the meeting that this process takes away the presumption of innocence.
Although the resolution is nonbinding, the supervisors want ICE involved only after a juvenile is convicted.
“We don’t want the reporting to happen unless there is an actual conviction of a youth,” said Supervisor Campos. “We recognize that some of the youth that may be booked under something may actually end up being innocent. We want to provide due process.”
The Convention has 54 articles and includes multiple references to fairness and the best interests of the child. “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration,” Article 3 states.
The resolution came about because of concerns about police treatment of undocumented minors.
“Cases are charged up,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, referring to the practice of charging suspects with more serious charges then they are eventually convicted of. “The police have an enormous amount of discretion in booking and charging. The current way is fundamentally unfair.”
Dufty said police book suspects on felony charges, and many are later convicted of misdemeanors.
“There are fundamental differences in opinion in the kind of system we have,” said Campos.
Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu and Michela Alioto-Pier opposed the resolution.
“I want to ensure we’re doing it the right way,” said Alioto-Pier.
Some members of the community spoke in support of the passage of the resolution.
“There’s systematic racial profiling going on in this country,” said Evelyn Sanchez of the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee. “Due process is being violated. Human and city rights are being violated,” said the Mission District resident. After the meeting she was pleased with the board’s vote.
“It feels empowering to know that these community actions do have impact, that they can influence decision makers who have the ability to create and change laws to help benefit and protect the community,” said Sanchez.
According to policy, if eight members of the board introduce and pass a resolution it cannot be vetoed.
“I think it’s very powerful not only that it’s a majority of the board but it’s actually eight supervisors—the magic number eight,” said Campos.
After the meeting Campos said it was fitting for this to happen on Cesar Chavez’s birthday.
“I think his spirit was in the room,” said Campos. “Progressives are in control.”