Fighting for juvenile justice

Do we want to risk deporting innocent kids — and seeing them die trying to rejoin their families?

Sup. David Campos' proposal to amend San Francisco's sanctuary policy so that the city guarantees due process to juvenile immigrants heads for a full vote of the board next week with the support of a veto-proof majority of supervisors.

Board President David Chiu and Sups. John Avalos, Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Eric Mar, Sophie Maxwell, and Ross Mirkarimi have signed on as cosponsors of the amendment, which also has the support of a broad coalition of civil and immigrants' rights organizations.

But with the mayor opposed to the bill and the daily newspapers agitating against reform, it's important to remember what's really at stake here.

As a team of civil rights experts notes, the Campos bill "will ensure that families are not torn apart because a youth is mistakenly referred for deportation and will encourage cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities by reestablishing a relationship based on trust, therefore increasing public safety."

Campos, who came to this country as an undocumented youth from Guatemala and represents San Francisco's heavily immigrant Mission District, says his proposal is a balanced solution to the draconian policy Newsom ordered last summer, without public input, the day after the mayor launched his 2010 gubernatorial bid.

When Campos introduced his amendment this summer, after months of public conversations with law enforcement agencies and the immigrant community, Newsom responded by leaking a confidential legal memo that outlined possible challenges to the proposal.

Angered but undaunted, a group of civil rights organizations responded by issuing their own brief explaining why Campos' proposal is legally tenable and defensible.

As Angie Junck of the Immigrant Legal Resources Center, Robert Rubin of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, Julia Mass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, professor Bill Ong Hing of UC Davis Law School, and Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus explained, Campos' proposal "will allow immigrant youths to have their day in court and be heard by an impartial judge, ensuring due process is upheld for all of San Francisco's youth."

They argue that Campos' legislation seeks to "lessen the risk that the city will be liable for racial profiling, unlawful detention, and mistaken referrals of U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants for deportation while bringing the city's juvenile probation practices into compliance with state confidentiality laws for youth."

And as they point out, Campos' proposal won't prevent youths who have been found by a court to have committed a felony from being referred to ICE.

"The sanctuary ordinance has stood strong for 20 years, and the proposed amendment strengthens the ordinance by taking steps to bring the city's practices more into compliance with state juvenile justice law," the brief states. "The legislation is a measured step in the right direction that will help restore accountability and fairness in the city's treatment of immigrant youth."

Or as Campos put it: "It's something we drafted very carefully in close consultation with the City Attorney's Office."


Campos' amendment seeks to shift the point at which immigrant kids get referred to ICE agents for possible deportation. Newsom's policy allows the police to refer kids to ICE the moment they're arrested. That means someone who turns out to be innocent and was arrested in error can still be deported.