San Francisco passes law to prohibit immigrant holds

Tue Oct 1, 2013 11:18pm EDT

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(Reuters) - San Francisco officials on Tuesday moved to curb their partnership with U.S. immigration authorities, by ending a practice that facilitates deportations by extending the detention of illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors action, which would exclude certain violent offenders, represents the latest pushback by state and local officials in California against the federal government over immigration enforcement.

The board voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to prevent the San Francisco police and sheriff's departments from detaining illegal immigrants arrested for crimes for up to 48 hours past their release dates. The extra time helps immigration agents take custody of detainees for possible deportation.

The federal government in 2008 launched the so-called Secure Communities partnership between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement to facilitate the deportation of illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.

It has drawn criticism from immigrant rights groups who say too many non-violent immigrants are being caught in the system, getting deported and being cut off from family.

"This legislation has passed and people do not have to fear immigration customs enforcement as much as they have," said San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, who proposed the bill.

Avalos and other critics of Secure Communities say the program deters domestic violence victims and witnesses of crimes from coming forward for fear of triggering the involvement of immigration authorities.

The law is set to take effect 30 days from when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs it, which could take up to 10 days. He cannot veto it because the board's vote was unanimous.

The measure mirrors similar bans by a handful of jurisdiction including Los Angeles, where Police Chief Charlie Beck last year said his office would no longer grant detainer requests under Secure Communities without first reviewing the seriousness of the offense for which a suspected illegal immigrant was held.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca took a similar position in December 2012.

That came a day after a declaration by California Attorney General Kamala Harris that Secure Communities was not mandatory, but a voluntary program for local agencies in the state.

Critics of the San Francisco ordinance approved on Tuesday included the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff's Association and police Chief Greg Suhr.

Suhr recently urged the San Francisco supervisors to amend the law, which was first proposed to apply to all detainees, to give law enforcement officials the discretion to detain immigrants for extended periods when they are accused of what he called "serious crimes."

Suhr did not speak at Tuesday's meeting and was not immediately available for comment.

A representative for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could not be reached for comment.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (5)
youradufus wrote:
If someone is here in this country illegally, and they are detained for whatever reason, why shouldn’t they be detained until they can be deported whether they’ve committed a serious crime or any crime? I’m all for immigration. We’ve got plenty of room here in the U.S. I say the more the merrier. But like every other country on the whole planet, emigrating should be done through legal means. Not doing so is a slap in the face to all those who did it legally who’ve come before them. So anyone who crosses the U.S. border, purposefully and with intent to stay, without doing so legally, should be considered a foreign invader.

Oct 01, 2013 12:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
canary wrote:
Just what you would expect from a City full of fruits and nuts that spawns the likes of Pelosi and Feinstein

Oct 02, 2013 1:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BigMak wrote:
I consider myself a humanitarian and always try to be impartial such as recognizing some countries probably do as much as they can to prevent their citizens from filing for a visa with another nation or that some regions are so horrible that another day could mean death but the United States will soon be infested with foreigners from povern areas bringing their problems with them, including the bitter attitudes. A lot more is being done for immigrants than natural born locals that are homeless, ill, etc. The government also fails to be able to maintain adequate law enforcement for the increased population and then criminals are constantly set free due to limited room in jail.

Sorry, but even assault and some theft is a serious crime to me – I worked all day, week, month or year for a person just to run off with my stuff. ( state gets to convict them, make them work on some chain gang to save labor expenses but I probably never get the chance to see any restitution if the delinquent chooses to abuse the system as a repeat offender ) How about making them build me a house or do something directly beneficial to the victim.

Oct 02, 2013 6:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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