Public safety adrift - Page 3

At this pivotal moment for law enforcement, will Newsom and his top deputies continue to let politics guide policy?
Illustration by Jason Crosby

"The city could have reformulated its ordinance to say that we'll notify ICE if kids are found guilty, do not qualify for immigration relief, and are repeat or violent offenders," Chan said. "That's what we are pushing. We are not saying never refer youth. We are saying respect due process."

Asked if Newsom will attend a Feb. 25 town hall meeting that immigrant rights advocates have invited him to, so as to reopen the dialogue about this policy shift, mayoral spokesperson Nathan Ballard told the Guardian, "I can't confirm that at this time."

Sitting in Newsom's craw is the grand jury investigation that Russoniello convened last fall to investigate whether the Juvenile Probation Department violated federal law. "Ever since the City found out that the grand jury is looking into it, they brought in outside counsel and everything is in deep freeze," an insider said. "The attitude around here is, let the whole thing play out. The city is taking it seriously. But I hope it's a lot of saber rattling [by Russoniello's office]."

Dorsey told the Guardian that "the only reason the city knew that a grand jury had been convened was when they sent us a subpoena for our 1994 opinion on the Sanctuary City policy, a document that was actually posted online at our website. Talk about firing a shot over the bow!"

Others joke that one reason why the city hired well-connected attorney Cristina Arguedas to defend the city in the grand jury investigation was the city's way of saying, 'Fuck You, Russoniello!" "She is Carole Migden's partner and was on O.J. Simpson's dream team," an insider said. "She and Russoniello tangled over the Barry Bonds stuff. They hate each other."

Shannon Wilber, executive director of Legal Services for Children, says Russoniello's theory seems to be that by providing any services to these people, public or private, you are somehow vioutf8g federal statutes related to harboring fugitives. "But if you were successful in making that argument, that would make child protection a crime," Wilber says, adding that her organization is happy to work with young people, but it has decided that it is not going to accept any more referrals from the Juvenile Probation Department.

"We no longer have the same agenda," Wilber said. "Our purpose in screening these kids is to see if they qualify for any relief, not to deport people or cut them off from services."

Wilber's group now communicates with the Public Defender's Office instead. "Between 80 and 100 kids, maybe more, have been funneled to ICE since this new policy was adopted," Wilber said. "This is creating an under class of teens, who are marginalized, in hiding and not accessing educational and health services for fear of being stopped and arrested for no good reason, other than that their skin is brown and they look Latino".

Wilber understands that the new policy direction came from the Mayor's Office, in consultation with JPD, plus representatives from the US Attorney's office and ICE. "They bargained with them," Wilber said. "They basically said, what are you guys going to be satisfied with, and the answer was that the city should contact them about anyone who has been charged and booked with a felony, and who is suspected of being undocumented."

She hopes "something shifts" with the new administration of President Barack Obama, and that there will be "enough pressure in the community to persuade the Mayor's Office to at least amend, if not eliminate, the new policy," Wilber said "The cost of what the city is doing, compared to what it did, is the flashing light that everyone should be looking at."

"It costs so much more to incarcerate kids and deport them, compared to flying them home," she explained.