Crossing the line - Page 5

How Mayor Newsom's policies are tearing apart families, imprisoning and imperiling children, and creating a climate of fear in immigrant communities
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Immigration rally at City Hall
Photo by Lars Howlett

"We have not yet seen a juvenile move from a secure facility to a foster home, but we have in the case of kids who are in ORR shelters for more than three months and have a legal case for staying."

Still, she said it's possible a child could be flown to an airport in their country of origin without much subsequent support in most Latin American countries. "If they are Mexican, they are flown to the airport in Tijuana, and if there are no relatives, they are turned over to a child welfare agency in Mexico," Trillin said. "I don't believe that level of cooperation exists elsewhere, though there might be some temporary shelters for them to wait in while their relatives are coming."

All countries of origin will have some involvement, Trillin noted, to the extent that they are contacted because all these kids need travel documentation. But that support is minimal. As she said, "Our country feels that it's done its duty once the consulates are contacted."

LETTER OF THE LAW

In his Oct. 28 veto letter, Newsom claimed that the supervisors had changed the sanctuary ordinance by "restricting the ability of local law enforcement officers to report juveniles who are in custody after being booked for the alleged commission of a felony and are suspected of vioutf8g the civil provisions of our sanctuary ordinance."

But in a Nov. 2 response to Newsom's veto, Campos countered that his amendment won't shield anyone guilty of such crimes and he invited Newsom to publicly debate the issue. "The board and the people of San Francisco deserve to understand more fully why you intend to ignore this policy and the time-honored democratic processes followed in enacting it," Campos wrote. "At stake is the protection of innocent immigrant children that have been unjustly separated from their families."

He also accused Newsom of spreading misinformation about what federal law requires. "City officials have no affirmative legal duty under federal law to expend limited local resources and funding on immigration enforcement," Campos wrote, citing a July 1, 2008 public memo from the City Attorney's Office and legal experts from Yale Law School, Stanford Law School, and UC Davis Law School who "have all agreed that there is no federal duty to inquire or report."

Noting that the City Attorney's Office has made it clear that his proposed amendment is "a legally tenable measure," Campos concluded that "the point at which a referral of a minor is made to ICE is ultimately not a legal decision but a policy decision.

"Our criminal justice system rests on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty; that is why providing youth an opportunity to contest a charge in court is a matter of basic due process," Campos continued. "The current policy is creating a climate of fear in immigrant communities, which means that immigrants who have been victims or witnesses to crimes are afraid to come forward."

The City Attorney's Office has declined to comment on whether the mayor has the authority to ignore properly approved legislation. "We are not going to comment on legislation that's still in the legislative process," City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey told us.

But Campos believes the mayor lacks any such authority. "Can the mayor ignore legislation because he believes it's illegal? Does he have the authority to have the final say? I don't think so," said Campos, who is an attorney.

Trillin sees Newsom's refusal to debate the issue with Campos as further confirmation that the Mayor's Office doesn't have a substantive argument that its sanctuary policy is a good one. "They can't defend their position.