In a veto-proof vote of 8-2, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation that would reversed the year-old policy of reporting undocumented immigrant youth to immigration officials as soon as they are arrested.
The change, lead by District 9 Supervisor David Campos, means undocumented juveniles will be reported to Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) only after a judge has upheld a felony charge.
After the vote was taken, high school students broke into,“Si Se Puede” (“Yes we can”) chants followed by, “Que viva Campos” (Long live Campos”).
The eight votes make the policy veto-proof, but, like all legislation, it will come before the supervisors for a second vote. That vote is scheduled for next week.
The change is one that immigrant advocates have pushed for since July 2008 when Mayor Gavin Newsom overturned the city’s long-term policy of not reporting undocumented juveniles to ICE. Newsom reversed that policy after the San Francisco Chronicle disclosed that Edwin Ramos, an undocumented immigrant charged with the murder of Tony Bologna and his two sons, had committed a crime as a juvenile. But instead of being deported when he was arrested as a juvenile, he was set free.
Campos said the new law strikes the right balance between enforcement and fairness and that it is defensible in court. Under the Campos legislation, Ramos would have been deported.
Campos, once an undocumented immigrant himself, framed the issue as one about due process and public safety.
“This is for our youth because they deserve nothing less than full equality when it comes to how the law treats them,” Campos said. “If we cannot stand up for the constitution in San Francisco, where can we? Let’s keep fighting.”
The two opposing votes were from Supervisors Carmen Chu and Sean Elsenberg. The mayor is expected to veto the measure, but it has enough supporters to become law. Nathan Ballard, the mayor’s spokesman, told the Chronicle that the mayor would ignore the measre and that it violated federal law. Other legal experts told Mission Loc@l that the Campos proposal would be upheld in court.
Chu said she remained concerned that suspects might flee instead of going through the whole judicial process.
“I have not become comfortable enough yet,” she said about suspects possibly not finishing the process where there is strong evidence.
Campos responded that the judge could detain suspects that are considered a flight risk. He added that if the case was so serious that the suspect would be tried as an adult, the suspect would then be reported to ICE.
“This policy addresses this very concern,” Campos said.
The main chamber, which was packed with students from Mission and Lincoln high schools, exploded with applause when the item passed.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty, a swing vote whose district includes Mission High, voted yes on the measure and said he is committed to the sanctuary ordinance that protects undocumented immigrants.
“It recognizes the value and dignity of people,” said the supervisor who has also announced that he will be running for mayor next year.
There was no public comment because residents already had the opportunity to speak on the measure when it was heard at the Public Safety Committee two weeks ago.
But a crowd of high school students were present.
Angela Chan, a juvenile justice attorney from the Asian Law Caucus, said students understand the impact of the legislation.
“They grasped that the supervisors were doing something that would affect them,” she said.
Chan, who spoke to students last week, said they seemed unresponsive until today, when a student came up to her and declared, “We have rights!”
Derrlyn Tom, a chemistry teacher at Mission High School, brought some of her students to the meeting.
“It was important for the supervisors to see whose lives they were affecting,” she said.
Jose, a 17-year-old immigrant student at Mission High who asked that his last name not be used, said the resolution’s success made him feel happy and safe. “They were talking about my life,” he said. “If they get me in wrong place, I know what to do.”
He added that he was impressed by Campos.
“He is great — he supports our community.”
Tom, the chemistry teacher, said it was also important for students to see the faces of those who advocate on their behalf.
“It was important for them to see allies who worked really hard to get this change throughout the year,” she said.
Ana Perez, the executive director for the Central American Resource Center, said a year of hard work has paid off.
“These tears are of happiness,” she said. The next step, she said, is to organize people to come to next week’s final vote. Chan agreed.
“I am holding my breath until the final vote.”