Just as San Francisco bears down for the anti-immigration agenda of the coming Trump Administration, lauding and reaffirming its Sanctuary City policy, a man who was detained in 2015 by SFPD after reporting a stolen car and then turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials is suing the city for allegedly violating that very policy. Pedro Figueroa-Zarcen, a 32-year-old El Salvadoran, is seeking unspecified monetary damages and more in a federal lawsuit according to the Chronicle, who spoke with his lawyer about his case.
Figueroa, a Mission District resident, reported his car stolen in November 2015, and when SFPD contacted him to say it had been found, he went to get a police report so he could reclaim it from where it was impounded. But instead of getting back his car, he was taken away in handcuffs and held in Martinez at a detention facility for two months while authorities auctioned off his car without telling him or his family, the current lawsuit claims.
The thrust of Figeruoa's case is that San Francisco officials breached the Sanctuary City ordinance, which discourages local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, as well as his right to due process by alerting the ICE of his location. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, who oversee the ICE, local police ran a routine background check on Figueroa and discovered an outstanding warrant of a decade ago for his deportation.
That warrant arose from a failure to appear at an immigration hearing in San Antonio in 2005, and a 2012 conviction for drunk driving. According to Figueroa, he never meant to defy immigration authorities: He originally planned to file for asylum and cite violence in his native El Salvador, and told immigration authorities he was going to stay with his aunt in San Francisco. But then Figueroa says he never heard from authorities again and had no knowledge of the outstanding warrant. When police officers made contact with the Sheriff's Department's central warrant bureau, deputies contacted the ICE service center, and an ICE duty officer was told where to find Figueroa by SFPD and that service center.
“As a victim of crime, Pedro Figueroa was exactly the type of person who should have been protected by our sanctuary ordinance,” an Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus staff attorney Saira Hussain told the Chronicle of her client. “Instead, he sought help from SFPD to find his stolen car and was arrested and turned over to ICE."
“With an incoming federal administration threatening mass deportations and targeting sanctuary cities,” Hussain added “we must hold SFPD and the Sheriff's Department accountable and ensure that every single officer is following the city's due process protections.”
Just so you know how this is playing out on among conservatives who like to tell themselves San Francisco sucks, the alt-right platform Breitbart news seemed to celebrate all of this last year with the headline "Illegal Accuses ICE of Deporting Him Against San Fran’s ‘Sanctuary City Laws.’"
I know, so gross. Don't call it San Fran.
Figueroa is scheduled in May to appear at an immigration hearing, his attorney told the Chronicle, but with immigration courts log jammed, that hearing could be two years away. Finally, in addition to the monetary damages sought in the lawsuit, Figueroa's lawyers claim that “Mr. Figueroa was the victim of false imprisonment,” since establishing him as the victim of a crime could make him eligible for a visa.