The eight supervisors co-sponsoring the ordinance that would report juveniles to immigration authorities only after a felony charge is upheld, said they continue to support it despite opposition from Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris.
The eight supervisors—a number that makes passage veto proof—said juveniles are entitled to due process and the new legislation “strikes the right balance” between leniency and overly punitive measures.
The current policy requires juveniles to be reported as soon as they are booked, while up until July 2008, city policy did not require them to be reported at all.
“No one is condoning criminal activity,” said District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the legislation last month. “Before we jump into conclusions, let’s give the child due process.”
The Public Safety Committee will take up the proposal on Monday, October 5 and the full board will hold a final vote by the end of October.
The eight co-sponsors include the six progressives and two key swing votes, Supervisors Bevan Dufty, who represents parts of the Mission District, and Sophie Maxwell who represents Bayview-Hunter’s Point and Potrero Hill.
The controversy over the Campos proposal began when a confidential memo from the city attorney, requested by Mayor Gavin Newsom, was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. The memo warned about possible lawsuits the city could face if the ordinance passes.
One of the lawsuits is from the Bologna family, which is suing the city in state court for not reporting Edwin Ramos to immigration officials when he was a juvenile. Ramos, 22, was the alleged killer of three family members including the father, 48, and two sons, 16 and 20.
Though the supervisors are sympathetic toward the family, they argued that the ordinance would not have protected Ramos.
“If the proposed policy were in place when Edwin Ramos had committed crimes as a juvenile, he would have been referred to ICE,” Supervisor Dufty answered to a constituent by email.
Avalos agreed, and immigration advocates told Mission Loc@l that the Bolognas have so far been unsuccessful in their lawsuit agains the city.
“I am from the district where the poster child for people who oppose this legislation had committed three murders in one event,” Avalos said. “The poster child under this legislation would be deported.”
The pressure would also come from the U.S. Attorney for Northern California Joseph Russoniello, a Republican appointee who has warned the city could face more lawsuits should the law pass.
Avalos pointed out that these are only possibilities and the supervisors are prepared to defend the measure. The city attorney has to sign off on the legislation.
Campos said he thinks the law will stand.
“Giving children due process from a legal standpoint is defensible,” said Campos, who is also a lawyer. He added that the city attorney’s memo doesn’t mention any case law or previous opinions from courts.
Supervisor Eric Mar who was once the director of the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights that pushed for sanctuary city in the late 80s, said this legislation would counter the damage the mayor has done.
“[Minors] commit crimes that are far from being felonies like graffiti, depending on where they put their graffiti,” Avalos said. He added that the mayor is more concerned with running for governor and being portrayed as being tough on immigration.
“It is a war of words the mayor is trying to put in place to obscure this legislation and weaken the support for it,” he added.
Dufty said there are families that have been split by the city’s new policy that alerts Immigration Control and Enforcement Agents as soon as an undocumented minor is arrested and charged with a felony. He talked about a minor that was sent to an out-of-state detention center after she was arrested for fighting with her sister.
The supervisors said they are willing to take a controversial stance because public safety is at stake.
“As it is now, too many residents are afraid to cooperate with police investigations, testify in court or communicate with government employees,” Dufty said. “Teachers, SFPD officers and hospital employees have no training in being effective enforcers of federal immigration law.”
Maxwell also sees the Campos proposal as a human rights issue.
“The basis of our law is ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ Maxwell said. “If it is the same for you, the same thing should be for them.”
Avalos spoke about the flaws of federal law targeting Latinos and how the legislation would also represent San Francisco as a city.
“It is important local government recognizes the fallacy of that and that we put protection against improper use of federal resources,” Avalos said.
Supervisor David Chiu said he supports the ordinance because it would not subject juveniles to “draconian federal laws before they have their due process.”
“We (San Francisco) have always supported policies that are supportive and sensitive to the needs of our immigrant communities,” added Chiu, who sits on the Public Safety Committee. “This is just another law in that realm.
While some supervisors say they have received some negative feedback, they said it’s been mostly positive.
Dufty said it was “unique” and “heartening” to be contacted by some 75 people showing support, and while Campos has also received a lot of support, most of the negative comments come from outside San Francisco.
Avalos, on the other hand, said no direct opposition has been raised from his constituents.
“I campaigned saying I did not agree with the new policy the mayor had in place and I won my election,” Avalos said of the general support he receives.
Mar says he has some constituents come in his office yelling anti-immigrant and racist remarks but said most are strong believers of due process.
The supervisors said they are expecting opposition from in and out of San Francisco when the legislation is discussed during the Public Safety Committee on Monday October 5. Campos is urging supporters to show a strong presence.
“It is good to have community come out and show support for the initiative,” he said.