Photos and text by Sarah Phelan.
Unjust immigration laws destroy families and harm workplaces, said protesters at today's anti ICE rally at City Hall.
If you are part of San Francisco’s immigrant and/or transgendered community, chances are you’ve figured out that a three-pronged attack on the protections that this City offers is in full swing.
If you are not, then today’s rally at City Hall helped people connect the dots.
1. ICE raids have intensified. (On average, San Francisco has one a year, but there have already been two in 2008. The first was May 2 at El Balazo Taquerias. The second was September 11 at a residential residence.
2. The City’s Sanctuary Ordinance is under attack following a series of embarrassing leaks ( under investigation by the Public Defender’s Office) about how San Francisco has been handling undocumented juveniles felons.
3. Mayor Gavin Newsom says implementing the municipal ID legislation, which the Board of Supervisors has already approved, isn’t a priority.
Claire Bohman, co-chair of the San Francisco chapter of Pride at Work, told the Guardian, that many within San Francisco’s immigrant and transgendered community came to this city precisely because they saw it as a sanctuary.
“So we understand the importance of the City’s Sanctuary Ordinance for all marginalized people,” Bohman said, who was also concerned that there is no definite time frame for the municipal ID program to begin.
“Transgendered folk are going to benefit tremendously from this program,” Bohman said. ‘It’s a bureaucratic nightmare when you are born one gender and live it another. Even getting your name changed is a problem. So, this is going to open a lot of doors for us.”
SEUI Local 1021's Robert Haaland talked about the hell he went through trying to get such paperwork sorted out.
Transgender hero Cecilia Chung worried that, “if San Francisco revokes its Sanctuary ordinance, just because of a couple of attacks, it will undo the hard work of the past two decades.”
Municipal ID author Sup. Tom Ammiano told the crowd, “ We’ve got to make people see the connections. We are under attack by U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello and some of the Mayor’s advisers. The Sanctuary ordinance is not to be used as a weapon against immigrant communities.”
(Russoniello, who was U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California from 1982-1990, began his second term as U.S. Attorney last winter. One of the mayor’s current advisers is fired former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, who Newsom tapped to head the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice last winter. Ryan and Russoniello's hiring coincided with the time that federal authorities first stopped a San Francisco probation officer at Houston airport who was helping the city to fly home juvenile Hondurans, rather than see them be deported. In late June these activities, along with the sending of undocumented juveniles to group homes, was leaked to the media, even though juvenile court records are confidential. The Public Defender’s Office has launched an investigation into the leaks.)
Ammiano told the rally that stronger, not weaker, policies were needed, and he called upon the business community to be vocal.
“It’s not right to use the labor, then say nothing when they are subjected to Stasi-like raids,” Ammiano said.
“We’re not fodder for the Fox News network or incendiary headlines in the local media,” he added, referring to what locals feel has been racist coverage of the issue in the Chronicle.
“As long as I am here, the municipal ID program is going to go forward, strong and pure,” Ammiano concluded.
(The Immigration Reform Law Institute is seeking to block enforcement of the ordinance, by alleging that is was adopted in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, constitutes an illegal expenditure of funds, and is preempted by federal immigration law.
The City Attorney has filed a counter suit, claiming the ordinance was thoroughly vetted.
Kris Kobach, who is currently suing San Francisco on behalf of the family of Tony Bologna, has been described as “a one-man legal army for IRLI.” Bologna and his two sons were murdered as they were returning home from a picnic. Kobach is going after San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance in this case, because the alleged killer, Edwin Ramos, is accused of going through the City’s juvenile system as an undocumented juvenile felon and of never having been referred to federal immigration authorities. The City Attorney, claiming the municipal.)
Ben Lunine of the Transgender Law Center told the crowd that he deplored, “Acts of abuse used by ICE against the people in the raids.”
(Sheila Chung Hagen of the City Adminsitrator’s Office told us that ICE appears to have entered the Visitacion Valley residence during its September 11 raid, without a warrant. They arrested 4 women and two men, leaving behind a 15-year old girl, who had applied to be in the country legally, but whose mother was among those detained. During the raid, one of the men was beaten up with a baton by ICE agents, Chung Hagen says. ICE agents said the man brandished some kind of kitchen utensil, but all the witnesses say he didn’t, Chung Hagen adds. Though local law enforcement was seen at the premises, Chung Hagen said they were reportedly responding to a call from a neighbor, who reported an altercation at the residence. ICE says at least one SFPD officer stayed with the girl after her family was taken away, until her aunt showed up. City officials learned of the raid, when the girl, who was freaked out, went to Mission High School, the next day, and told her teacher. Three of those detained are now out of ICE detention, but wearing ankle bracelets, the other three, including the girl’s mother and the man who was beaten up, and has his hand in a sling, have already been transferred to a federal facility in Phoenix, Arizona. ICE agents say the man didn’t want to go to the hospital, but they took him there. Witnesses say it was the man who requested to go to SF General. So far, ICE has not provided the City with a medical report.)
“The Sanctuary ordinance does not stop ICE raids from happening, Chung Hagen told us. “But it does give us the opportunity to denounce them and to not share information that is not required by federal or state law.”
(Chung Hagen also told us that recently a young boy broke into his brother’s car. He was borrowing it and left the keys inside, she said. The police apprehended him and charged him with a felony. But even though the judge threw out his case, unfortunately the Juvenile Probation Department had to turn him over to ICE, because of the Mayor’s recent shift in direction around the sanctuary ordinance, which now says the City must notify ICE when they book suspected juvenile felons who are suspected undocumented.)
This new reporting requirement has immigrant rights attorneys and community advocates up in arms, since they fear it will lead to wrongful arrests and deportations. As Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus recently pointed out, using Juvenile Probation Department’s data, in 2006, there were 1215 petitions filed, but only 854 were sustained.
288 petitions were filed against Latin American juveniles, but only 211 were sustained. In other words, under the new policy direction, 77 juveniles who weren’t actually found to have committed a felon in San Francisco, would, however, have been reported to ICE, on being booked, and therefore might have been wrongly deported.
Renee Saucedo of the La Razo Centro Legal Community Law Center talked at today's rally of “a community under siege.”
Sup. Chris Daly noted that San Francisco is a city of immigrants.
"An injustice against one of us is an injustice against us all," Daly said.
Sup. Geraldo Sandoval pointed out that many people come to San Francisco from all over Central America because of City reputation as being a bastion of civil liberties, including its acceptance of people who have a different sexual orientation.
“And guess what, they happen to be undocumented,” Sandoval told the crowd.
Josue Arguelles of the Queer Youth Organizing Project recalled how six years ago, he wouldn’t have imagined, as a gay Latino, that the very reason he sought out San Francisco would be threatened:
That reason? "The feeling of acceptance, integration and the sense of freedom that comes from being yourself," Arguelles said.
Also at the rally was Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who had not spoken by the time we left. But last week, Mirkariimi told us that the Board of Supervisors, “shouldn’t be shy about calling out the hypocrisy and contradictions of pretending to have a sanctuary ordinance, when we do don’t.”
He also suggested that the community demand assistance from their federal representatives and criticized the Mayor’s Office for having largely crafted the policy shift alone.
“A wiser mayor would have would have enabled assistance and required the cooperation of congressional representatives and senators,” Mirkarimi said.