The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 on Tuesday to override the mayor’s veto of a law that would relax the sanctuary city policy on when to report undocumented youth to immigration.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s refusal to enforce the law leaves the board and the mayor at a standoff that might only be resolved through a legal challenge.

The new law states that juvenile probation officers are to report youth to ICE only after their felony charge is upheld, a law the mayor has asked the department to ignore. Currently probation officers report youth to ICE when they are detained.

“My hope is that he will decide to fulfill his duty as mayor,” Campos said. “Which is to implement the laws that were duly enacted by the board.”

He added that the board or other groups might take legal action against the mayor if he does not enforce the law.

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city attorney has advised the mayor to construct a policy that is “consistent with the existing policy.”

He added that they “will cross that bridge when we get to it” regarding a possible lawsuit.

Campos challenges this claim.

“Make sure that you check with the city attorney again,” Campos said. “As a mayor he does not have the authority.”

The city attorney’s office has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello asking to give them “assurance” that city employees would not be prosecuted if they follow the current law.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera will discuss with policymakers other ways to implement the policy if Russoniello does not grant assurance.

One option is to file a “declaratory relief action” in federal court. This action asks the court to give the city direction on a possible litigation; this would make a court decide if the law is illegal.

“The letter is an effort in the part of the city attorney to get more information from the federal government,” Campos said. “I think it makes sense.”

He added that there is no need to go to court on whether it should be enacted.

“I don’t think it is clear that’s where the city attorney is going,” Campos said. “My personal view is that the next step should be implementation. I don’t think we need to go to court on whether this is going to be implemented.”

The chief of the Juvenile Probation Department, William Sifferman said they would consult with different legal groups to find a policy that is consistent with all laws.

“I will study the legislation enacted by the board of supervisors regarding the sanctuary city ordinance revision.” Sifferman said. “Within the next 60 days will confer with the mayors office, city attorney and outside legal council to determine the department’s most appropriate response to the extent permitted by state and federal law.”

At least 160 youth have been reported to ICE, as of June 2009. Abigail Trillin of Legal Services for Children said this figure might now be higher.

Mission Loc@l reported last week about one family that has been affected by the current policy.

Trillin said they have seen an additional 15 clients since June.

Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsnberg, and Carmen Chu voted against the law.

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. The mayor swore an oath to the U.S. Constitution, Article I of which states that federal law is superior to state and local enactments. 8 USC 1373, a federal statute, prohibits any local government from preventing any local official from reporting illegal aliens to the ICE. The mayor has a constitutional duty not to violate any federal law, including Section 1373. This duty trumps any obligation to follow the policy pronouncements of the Board of Supervisors. Didn’t they teach David Campos that at Harvard Law School?