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News + PoliticsSupes reject anti-immigrant measure

Supes reject anti-immigrant measure

Pro-Sanctuary-City law passes unanimously after “reactionary” alternative is tabled, 6-5, with Sup. Christensen voting to keep it alive

48hillsimmigration
Immigrant-rights groups celebrate after major victory

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 20, 2015 — The Board of Supes today staved off what could have been a terrible statement on immigration and instead passed a unanimous measure that puts the city on record as opposing the federal government’s efforts to deport people through the Priority Enforcement Program.

It was, immigrant-rights groups agreed, a major victory – and while the pro-immigrant measure by Sup. David Campos passed11-0, a competing measure that community leaders called “reactionary” and “knee-jerk politics” only failed by one vote.

Among those who voted not to table the competing measure was Sup. Julie Christensen, who is locked in a tight race with Aaron Peskin in District 3, which includes Chinatown.

In other words, Christensen voted to keep alive a measure that the immigrant community in San Francisco, pretty much across the board, considered dangerous and insulting.

Sup. Malia Cohen made an impassioned speech against the Farrell legislation
Sup. Malia Cohen made an impassioned speech against the Farrell legislation

The measure by Sup. Mark Farrell had nice words about the Sanctuary City policy, but ultimately sought to have Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi rescind his policy of declining to turn over immigrants to federal authorities without a warrant.

It was a response to the tragic and senseless killing of Kate Steinle, which has whipped up anti-immigrant fervor around the country and fueled the right wing of the Republican Party.

Farrell noted that his mother was an immigrant from Germany but that his priority was public safety, and that the sheriff should have called the feds and had them pick up the alleged shooter when he was released from county jail.

“We felt it was reactionary politics,” Lariza Dugan-Cuandra, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, told me. She said it would have the appearance of putting San Francisco on the side of the “hateful rhetoric” that has been whipped up in the national press.

“For a community that is dealing with Donald Trump, we felt as if it was part of the national furor against immigrants,” she said.

Sup. Malia Cohen agreed. “What message are we sending to undocumented people?” she asked in a passionate speech. “If people don’t trust law enforcement, no level of policing will make us safe.”

She asked Farrell if he would withdraw his resolution, and then moved to table it.

That would effectively kill the measure, and, she said, allow the board to move on to other business without giving a nod to Fox News.

Story after story came out about immigrants who feared calling the police. Campos described a woman who spent ten years in an abusive relationship because she feared that she would be taken away from her daughter if Immigration and Customs Enforcement found out about her status.

Farrell said that he didn’t oppose the Sanctuary City policy and that “people act as if there is a monopoly” on immigration stories. But he insisted that the sheriff should have “picked up the phone” and called ICE on the alleged killer of Steinle.

Sup. Jane Kim noted that the issue was less about immigration policy and more about the fact that a person just released from county jail was able to find a handgun loose on the waterfront – that, in other words, gun control was a more serious problem than undocumented immigrants.

But Farrell refused to back off.

The room was packed with immigration-rights advocates, who were so unhappy with the Farrell measure that they stood up and turned their backs when he introduced it.

“I don’t think that was his intent, but the immigrant community saw this as something that scapegoats immigrants,” Campos told me.

Sup. Scott Wiener said he didn’t want to table the measure because he thought there should be a full up-or-down vote on it, and it’s true that the board rarely tables resolutions.

But Cohen wanted to do more than see it defeated – she wanted to send the message that the city wouldn’t even dignify this with a formal vote.

Six supervisors agreed. Five voted to keep the measure alive: Katy Tang, Wiener, London Breed, Farrell, and Christensen.

I asked Christensen why, and she hasn’t responded.

That could be an issue in her immigrant-heavy district.

In the end, though, the activists were thrilled by the outcome. “It’s a major victory not just for San Francisco but for cities around the county,” Campos told me. He said he’s in touch with Cook County (Illinois) Commissioner Chuy Garcia, who wants to push similar legislation in the Chicago area.

“If San Francisco and Cook County both reject PEP, it will send an important national message. Cities around the United States are looking to San Francisco,” Campos said.

It was, Dugan-Cuandra said, “a wonderful San Francisco day.”

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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13 COMMENTS

  1. In principle, sure, deport felons. As you say, there’s no good reason why the US should keep Bad People around. The question in my mind are the grey areas. The Federal Government has a bad record of deporting people for the purpose of political grandstanding. The whole sanctuary movement started in the 1980s, I believe, when the US was deporting people back to El Salvador, because it would not own to the danger of the death squads it was supporting. The situation is not the same now, but the mistrust is still there, and I think it is justified.

  2. Three misdemeanors is a lot of leeway, though perhaps, very minor offenses should not lead to deportation. Yet, if you’ve got a foreign national felon in custody, his ass should get deported, regardless if there are any warrants for his arrest, or whether he’s served his time. How does is serve us to harbor them?

  3. It’s not just felons. The list of priorities for deportation in the Priority Enfocement Program is a mishmash of serious crimes and not so serious ones. The first priority includes Bad People: spies, and terrorists, gang members, and felons, but also people caught at the border sneaking in, and people merely suspected of being spies and terrorists. The second priority includes people convicted of serious misdemeanors, including Bad Stuff like sexual exploitation and burglary, but also people convicted of any three misdemeanors (except minor traffic offenses). So technically you could be deported for working at a pot dispensary, or for getting three sit/lie tickets.

    Deportation is serious business, and the message I get from SF’s legislation is that the city does not trust the DHS with either its official causes for deportation or its fair enforcement of them. People who are convicted of any violations will be sentenced like anyone else anyway, but the Feds are on their own as far as deportation goes.

  4. Can’t there be a middle ground here? While I totally understand that someone who gets pulled over for a minor infraction shouldn’t be turned over to the Feds, maybe someone who is a 5 time felon and subject to deportation SHOULD be turned over to the Feds.

  5. I don’t want the feds deporting undocumented immigrants wholesale, but remind me again, why do we want to harbor felons? Violent or not, what is the public benefit of keeping repeat offenders in the country? I’d wager that committing a felony in any other foreign country will get you deported.

    I hope congress gets its shit together and creates a path to legal residency for existing immigrants, but I also hope letting foreign nationals with felony records stay in the country isn’t part of that reform…

  6. Do all of them take the stance of prohibiting communicating with Fed authorities about undocumented felons, like Mirk has done? I suspect not.

    DV perps who condone gladiators, who can’t shoot straight, who canb’t keep their drivers licenses, or find lost patients sure have a lot to contribute to the Illegal Immigration debate.

    Nice hydroponics training for inmates, though.

  7. I often see the statement ” those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it’, guess we haven’t learnt much.

  8. So I’m seeing that every article from now until the election is going to somehow find a way to complain about Christensen.

  9. There are 340 “sanctuary cities” – most of which are actually counties – in the US and San Francisco is just one of many.

    It is going to be fun watching the Peskin campaign spin this in Chinatown as well as Christensen flub her response.

  10. ‘Anti-immigrant measure.’ Right. Beginning to remember why I stopped reading the Guardian at around age 16.

Comments are closed.

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