Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed tireless immigrant rights advocate Angela Chan to the San Francisco Police Commission.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown declined San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey request to allow San Francisco to opt out of Secure Communities, ICE’s latest federal-local law enforcement collaboration.
"I think this program serves both public safety and the interests of justice," Brown said. "ICE's program advances an important law enforcement function by identifying those individuals who are in the country illegally and who have a history of serious crimes or who have previously been deported."
“ Before the inception of Secure Communities allowing fingerprint identification, if a county suspected an arrestee was in the country illegally, the county submitted the person's name to ICE for a background check,” Brown stated.
What Brown’s letter didn’t say was that, up until now in San Francisco, the county only submitted folks’ names to ICE if they were charged with a felony. Nor did he address why the federal government is sneaking around, switching this program on, without openly and transparently announcing their intentions to the local community.
Eileen Hirst, spokesperson for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office said that, as a result of Brown’s letter, “As far as we know, San Francisco will be a part of Secure Communities as of June 1.”
In a statement, Sheriff Hennessey said, “I am disappointed with the Attorney General’s position and continue to be concerned that U.S. citizens and minor offenders will be caught up in the broad net of Secure Communities, and I will be studying the issue further to see how this program can be applied as fairly as possible and in the spirit of the sanctuary ordinance.”
So far, ICE’s data reveals the number of folks caught up in the Secure Communities net, plus a brief breakdown of the deportees’ level of crime.
It would be helpful, as several immigrants rights groups have suggested, if ICE revealed the nationality of these deportees, clarified if these folks were convicted of crimes or simply charged with them, and had to make frequent reports to Congress in which they included this data along with evidence that the program actually deports convicted criminals rather than folks simply arrested. Otherwise, the program could potentially be abused by renegades who realize that all you have to do to get someone deported is arrest them on trumped up charges
Anyways, you can read the rest of AG Brown’s letter below. My favorite line from Brown's letter is, “Many of the people booked in local jails end up in state prison or go on to commit crimes in other counties or states.”
Hmm. Does that mean that folks charged with crimes in this state are presumed guilty then, until proven otherwise? Or is that just the presumption about immigrants?
AG Brown’s letter:
"Dear Sheriff Hennessey:
I am writing in response to your letter regarding the Secure Communities program developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program is scheduled to be rolled out in San Francisco next month. You requested that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) block ICE from running checks on the fingerprints collected in San Francisco. The Secure Communities program is up and running in 169 counties in 20 states, including 17 counties in California. Because I think this program serves both public safety and the interest of justice, I am declining your request.
The DOJ Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigative Services is the entity designated by California law to maintain a database of fingerprints used in the state for law enforcement purposes. When someone is arrested, the county forwards the fingerprints to the DOJ to identify the person, determine his or her criminal history and to discover any outstanding warrants. As in every other state, the DOJ forwards those fingerprints to the FBI to check for a history of criminal activity outside of the state. Under the Secure Communities program, the FBI forwards fingerprints collected at arrest to ICE. If ICE finds a match to prints in its database, ICE notifies the county. ICE's stated intent and practice is to place holds on those individuals who are in the country illegally and who have a history of serious crimes or who have been previously deported.
Prior to the Secure Communities program, the name, but not the fingerprint, provided by an individual on arrest was run through ICE's database of people known by ICE to be in the country illegally. Often, individuals with a criminal history were released before their immigration status was discovered. Using fingerprints is faster, race neutral and results in accurate information and identification.
In these matters, statewide uniformity makes sense. This is not simply a local issue. Many of the people booked in local jails end up in state prison or go on to commit crimes in other counties or states.
I appreciate your concern. But I believe that working with the federal government in this matter advances important and legitimate law enforcement objectives.
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.