Vicious circle - Page 2

Violence in the Mission is increasing — but immigrants are less likely to want to talk to the police

10, when Siffermann unveiled details at a Juvenile Probation Commission meeting.

Community-based organizations and immigration rights attorneys complained that the policy ignored all but one of the recommendations they made in July and August to Siffermann, city administrator Ed Lee, and Kevin Ryan, a fired former US Attorney whom Newsom tapped to head the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in January.

Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus warned the commission that the policy, which has already resulted in 50 juveniles being referred to ICE, may result in the deportation of young people who had not committed any crime, or whose felony charges were dropped.

Community organizer Bobbi Lopez asked commissioners, "Why do we have a political will to demonize these kids who have been trafficked into this country?"

And Francisco Ugarte, a lawyer with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network, said the policy is akin to "rounding up all of Wall Street because there are bankers involved in insider trading."

The commission decided to form an ad hoc committee to review the policy, but the immigrant advocates and attorneys we contacted expressed little hope of change, given the impending presidential election and Newsom's gubernatorial ambitions.

Some went so far as to suggest that the Joseph Russoniello, who opposed churches and synagogues offering sanctuary to Salvadorans and Guatemalans in the 1980s, and became the US Attorney based in San Francisco in January 2008, had drafted the mayor's new policy.

Patti Lee of the Public Defender's Office noted that the Mayor's Office did not discuss the policy changes with her office, the courts, the prosecutors, or the people involved in immigration litigation.

Claiming that 99 percent of kids arrested in the city are not violent felons, Lee said, "They are mostly engaged in drug sales to survive and to send money back to their families."

Probation chief Siffermann defended the new policy direction. "Just because ICE is notified about suspected undocumented juvenile felons doesn't mean they will be deported," Siffermann told us. "I know there's a fear that this will open an automatic trap door to horrendous facilities and poor conditions, but this is not about dropping kids off in the middle of nowhere. What we are talking about includes outreach for families with adolescent members on the road to a delinquent involvement, whose actions call attention to the entire family situation."

Reached by phone, Russoniello told us, "If the city had scrupulously followed the ordinance as it's written, there would not have been this controversy."


Russoniello claimed that ICE's first concern is people engaged in criminal activity, and agreed that in some cases, petitions may not be sustained against juveniles referred to ICE.

"But ICE may determine that the person is a member of a gang or engaged in regular criminal behavior," Russiniello added.

Russoniello also told us that the city is probably looking at its past files on undocumented juvenile felons to determine its own liability.

"Certainly, if people who are now adults were committing heinous crimes as juveniles, people are going to be wondering why they weren't deported," Russoniello said, alluding to a June 22 triple homicide in which three members of the Bologna family were shot while returning home from a picnic.

Allegations emerged in July that the prime suspect in that killing, Edwin Ramos, 21, was an undocumented MS-13 gang member who committed felonies and went through the city's juvenile system, but was never referred to ICE.