The SF Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously reaffirmed the city's Sanctuary City policy, and added some clarification about when it's OK for city workers and SFPD officers to dime out illegal immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As KRON 4 reports, the new resolution comes as a compromise between the Board and newly elected Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who wanted more discretion for the Sheriff's Department in cases when an immigrant who already has a record is charged with a felony.
The reasons for the Board's vote this week, and the compromise, date back to 2015, when the entire nation called such policies into question after a particularly tragic incident. Conservative America and Fox News rained down all kinds of shame on SF's liberal city leadership after the murder of Kathryn Steinle last summer, allegedly at the hands of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a transient Mexican man who had previously been deported five times for various felony drug charges.
The Board of Supervisors previously reaffirmed the Sanctuary City ordinance as written back in October, which held that the sheriff should only notify federal immigration authorities of the release of an inmate with no legal status if they have had a violent felony conviction in the past seven years, and they face another violent felony charge.
Former sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's policy barred communication with ICE in almost all circumstances. And as the Chronicle explains, under the new compromise legislation, Sheriff Hennessy has "discretion to notify immigration agents if the inmate had a violent or serious felony conviction in the past seven years or three or more lesser felonies arising from different events in the past five years... [Also] Hennessy may... notify immigration agents if the defendant has a conviction for a serious felony like murder or rape within five years."
The compromise came in that the person in question must not only be charged by law enforcement, but must also be determined likely guilty by a judge before any notification to federal agents can occur.
In case you're confused about why any of this is up for debate, 48 Hills re-explains why sanctuary policies like this exist at all in cities as dense with immigrant populations as ours:
The problem: If immigrant communities think the local police or sheriffs are going to turn them over to Immigration Control and Enforcement, they aren’t going to report crimes, help with the investigation of crimes, or in many cases even go to hospitals or other public facilities. Entire communities live in fear of ICE, and that’s bad for everyone in San Francisco.
Another problem, though, is that the case of Lopez-Sanchez is still a complicated one, not only because he may be mentally ill. Hennessy tells KRON 4 "that she would not have contacted ICE in the case of Lopez-Sanchez because he was not wanted on a felony [at the time of his last release from jail]."
Expect this debate to rage on, and for presidential candidates to continue to weigh in.