But the Washingtons' case struck a raw nerve at City Hall, and the Obama administration's conciliatory response, along with other recent legal developments, indicate that it isn't the feds that are preventing implementation of Campos' legislation.
In February, Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard ruled in a civil case that the Bologna family — of which three members were murdered in 2008, allegedly by Edwin Ramos, an undocumented immigrant who had been in city custody as a juvenile — can't hold the city liable for failing to prevent the murders.
That crime had been sensationalized by the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and nativist groups, putting pressure on Newsom to change the Sanctuary City policy. Newsom's spokespeople repeatedly have referred to it as an example of the civil liability the city faced.
On March 1 (the same day Washington first went public), City Attorney Dennis Herrera replied to allegations that his office has not done enough to implement Campos' amendment by citing its victory in the Bolognas' civil case, which sought punitive damages and to invalidate the city's sanctuary ordinance.
Herrera also asked Gary Grindler, acting deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, to direct the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California to "not use its limited resources to criminally prosecute local officials and employees who abide by California and local laws regarding the reporting of undocumented juvenile immigrants to the federal immigration authorities."
Herrera based his March 12 request on an Oct. 19, 2009 memo that Grindler's predecessor, David Ogden, issued curtailing federal action against medical marijuana dispensaries, which Herrera argued could serve as the model for clarifying the federal position on the city's sanctuary law.
"If city officials and employees follow the mandates of state law, including those regarding the confidentiality of records of juvenile detainees, and the requirements of the amendment permitting the reporting to ICE of juveniles only after they have been adjudicated as wards of the court for criminal conduct, then the U.S. Attorney should not make it a priority to use its scarce federal resources to prosecute those city officials on the theory that by not reporting them at an earlier point, the city officials or employees are guilty of harboring," Herrera wrote.
Campos said he welcomes any effort to get clarification from the feds, but believes such clarification is not necessary — and may not be forthcoming anyway. "So San Francisco should move forward. The law, in my view, allows us to do so, and it's the right thing to do."