Board tells Newsom to support due process for all youth


The SF Examiner and the ">Chronicle continue to beat the anti-immigrant drum, when it comes to mocking, downplaying or distorting the unconstitutional impact on children of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that under the new policy direction that Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered last summer, just as he was announcing his gubernatorial run, San Francisco does nothing to accord due process to undocumented children that are charged with felonies by local law enforcement officials.

Now, if you ask the Mayor’s Office, if the sanctuary policy accords due process to juvenile youth, you’ll get, “Yes, the City Attorney vetted it.”
That is not an answer. It’s the giant sucking sound of mayoral advisers passing the buck.

Now, as Sup. David Campos points out, the City Attorney provides legal advice—what the law is, its parameters, its implications—not policy calls.

Campos reiterated that point this week, when he and seven other members of Board of Supervisors voted to pass a resolution urging the board to adopt the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which supports due process for youth. (You can watch the video of that meeting here. Look for item 17.)

Campos was joined by Board President David Chiu and Sups. Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Eric Mar, John Avalos, Sophie Maxwell, and Ross Mirkirmi in supporting the resolution, while Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd, and Carmen Chu wanted to defer their decision on the issue until they got an opinion from the City Attorney on the Charles Fonseca v Heather Fong case.

Anti-immigrant groups have, of course, declared the Fonseca case a victory, but as Campos points out, that case, in which a San Francisco resident and taxpayer named Charles Fonseca sued SFPD Chief Heather Fong, deals with specific drug-related crimes and has nothing to do with juveniles.

“And it’s important to note that it wasn’t the City Attorney’s office who was asking for a delay in the Board’s vote so we could have a closed session on Fonseca,” Campos said. “People are trying to use the law for a justification of a policy choice they’ve made.”

So, after Public Defender Jeff Adachi made strong arguments in support of the Board’s resolution last week, a super majority of supervisors voted for it on what turned out to be Cesar Chavez 82nd birthday. That veto-proof vote signals that Newsom needs to develop a more thought-out policy that finds a way to respects due process.

As Campos observed, “When we talk about due process, it is not enough to talk about it in the context of the due process that will be provided to undocumented youth by the federal government. It is of course our hope, our intent that the Obama administration will provide that. But the focus of this language is not on what the federal government is doing or not doing, but on what we, San Francisco, are doing in terms of implementing our sanctuary ordinance. How can we say that we are fairly implementing it when we are reporting people merely who have been accused of doing something. I think that most san Franciscans would be surprised that we are not giving someone the benefit of the doubt, a basic principle that I think is at the heart of who we are as a society, this notion that you are truly are innocent until proven guilty. Well, that is what this does. It basically says that when it comes to implementation of our sanctuary ordinance, when we as a city interact with youth who may or may not be undocumented, that we are going to provide that youth due process and due process means that the mere fact that someone has been accused of something does not mean we are going to be the judge, the jury, that we are going to refer that person only if there is adjudication, a finding of guilt. I don't think that's a radical notion. I think we as San Franciscans should be very proud to be able to say, you know what, we do not condone criminal activities, but not condoning criminal activity doesn't mean that you assume that people are guilty simply because of what their documented status might be. That's what's at stake here.”

As for the Chronicle’s coverage of the Juvenile Probation Department’s report that Campos requested to determine how many youth have been affected by Newsom’s new policy direction, Campos said “These are the numbers, and you can play with them to make them say whatever you want. But there is this assumption that all of these youth are guilty, when in fact there hasn’t been any adjudication of them. The truth is that 65 youth were handed over without any kind of due process.”

Campos warns that if Newsom does not seek to amend the city's current policy himself, the Board will introduce legislation themselves. Stay tuned.