Fighting for juvenile justice - Page 2

Do we want to risk deporting innocent kids — and seeing them die trying to rejoin their families?
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Campos wants the cops to wait until the felony charge is upheld in juvenile court.

Since July 2008, when Newsom ordered the city's current policy shift, 160 youths have been referred to ICE, increasing the risk they will be sent to detention facilities across the country, far from their families, without access to immigration legal services, based on accusations and racial profiling.

Abigail Trillin, staff attorney with the Legal Services for Children, told us that the Newsom policy makes San Francisco bedfellows with Texas and Orange County.

"A bunch of our kids go to Yolo County and Oregon, a lot to Los Angeles, others to Miami, Virginia, and Indiana, and some have already been deported," Trillin said.

Trillin noted that Newsom's policy is destroying families by allowing innocent kids to be reported for deportation without the basic right to due process — often for minor offenses. She has already seen youth who are documented or innocent erroneously referred to ICE by juvenile probation officers, who often lack expertise in immigration law.

She also fears this miscarriage of justice could result in abuse and even death — especially if kids try to return to their homes and families by crossing the border, which has became increasingly militarized and perilous in the aftermath of the Bush administration's decision to spend billions to build a fence along the border.

Last week, the battle for juvenile justice took a fresh twist locally when Newsom's newly appointed Police Chief George Gascón said he hoped for a compromise involving third party review by the District Attorney's Office.

"I fully understand the concerns Campos brings to the table," Gascón said, referring to his previous job as chief of police in Mesa, Ariz., where he saw the anti-immigrant excesses of Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"I have the benefit of seeing the other side, where you have police agencies aggressively engaged in immigration enforcement, where people that were frankly not engaged in any criminal activity other than that of being here without authority, are being deported," Gascón said. He noted that being here without papers often is not a crime; it's just an administrative violation.

"I've seen very young people, people that basically came to this country when they were three or four years old and are staying clean and going to school, get stopped for a traffic violation at age 17 or 18, and now all of a sudden they're getting deported to a country where they have no roots," he said.

But the chief remains convinced that the criminal justice system needs to be able to use all legally available tools to deal with violent criminal juveniles.

"I'm not saying the district attorney needs to make the reporting. The triggering event could be the determination to file the case," Gascón said. "Frankly, I wish I'd been here a year earlier to deal with this issue," he added, noting that federal immigration hearings are "a kangaroo court."

"It's not a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard for people to get deported," he said.

"The other side of the coin is that this would be putting people in situations where they could be federally indicted for violations of law. And you also have problems at state," he continued, noting that two federal grand juries are currently reviewing the behavior of the Juvenile Probation Department.

DUE PROCESS

Campos, a lawyer, appreciates that the new police chief is "genuinely trying to see if there is something he can do to resolve the situation. I believe if he had been in place where this discussion was going on a year ago, the mayor would have received better advice."

"The chief's comments reflect that what is happening here is pretty extreme," Campos added.