On Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s officers visited a home in San Francisco’s Mission allegedly looking for a “sex offender” sought for deportation. This came a day after President Trump signed an executive order to strip federal funding from cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. This story is part of a series of stories looking at San Francisco’s fight to remain a sanctuary city.
As the city reeled with the elections results, Saira Hussain and Angela Chan, of the Asian Law Caucus, went to work with one thing on their mind: a way forward to ensure the rights of immigrants were protected under Trump’s administration.
“The city agencies need to be incredibly clear that they will have a plan in place in case they get something like a subpoena or if hostile federal agents start asking for documents that they should not be privy to,” said Hussain who is a staff attorney, Criminal Justice Reform at Asian Law Caucus. Hussain added that city agencies should be made aware that the City Attorney should be handling all requests from the federal government: “It needs to be a pretty clear plan so it’s not like an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s) officer comes to a school and the principle says I guess you can come in,” she said.
Chan is worried about the San Francisco Police Department complying with ICE request despite the city’s sanctuary status: “It has happened in the past where the SFPD responded to an immigration warrant request just in the last year or two. They claimed that they didn’t know but they need to be trained,” she said.
Chan also pointed out that one of SFPD’s biggest problem is the language barrier that causes a lot of issues with the monolingual members of the immigrant community: “Most people are scared to talk to the police because they think they will be wrongly arrested and handed over to the immigration authorities,” she said.
Chan and Hussain said they weren’t going to risk waiting for President Trump to come into office like many of their counterparts they began their work expecting the worse.
On Wednesday, these fears were signed into reality as President Trump signed an executive order to strip federal funding from cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Since then the city’s leadership and community organisers have come together to denounce the order and reaffirmed San Francisco’s sanctuary city status.
“Let me tell you about our America, our City. In our America, people are equal, no matter race, religion,gender or sexual orientation. In America we embrace our differences and understand they make us stronger and more vibrant. We are a sanctuary city, now, tomorrow, forever,” said Mayor Lee during his state of the city address earlier today.
Chan says even though Trump is unprecedented, the city has fought back ICE before, Chan was around in 2008 when there were a series of ICE raids in the bay area that saw the arrest of over 1100 people across California: “I think what’s important is that all students are trained, hospital staff are trained, even all police department staff are trained. People’s right to remain silent when ICE approaches them, ICE isn’t allowed into anyone’s home they need a warrant signed by a judge and even then that individual doesn’t need to let them into the home they could step out and not allow access to the family members,” she said.
On Tuesday, the day before President Trump signed the executive order, the Board of Supervisors approved $1.5 million in additional funding for nonprofit groups to defend undocumented immigrants from deportation in court.
The Asian Law Caucus is one the many organisations leading San Francisco’s fight to remain a sanctuary despite the odds.