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Monday, March 4, 2024

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Supes, mayor fail on immigration

Fewer plan to defend immigrants from deportation gets gutted in disgraceful Budget Committee hearing

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer stands up for immigrants while the mayor and Sups. Malia Cohen and Katy Tang run away

Everyone involved is putting a (fairly) nice face on it, but the reality is that the Board of Supes Budget and Finance Committee’s rejection of adequate funding for the defense of immigrants facing deportation was a horror show.

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer stands up for immigrants while the mayor and Sups. Malia Cohen and Katy Tang run away
Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer stands up for immigrants while the mayor and Sups. Malia Cohen and Katy Tang run away

After more than an hour of impassioned testimony March 2, and an amazing presentation by Fewer, the committee rejected ever her modest, compromise proposal for five new lawyers to defend immigrants. She had originally asked for 10 lawyers and seven support staff.

Let’s start off by looking at some numbers. There are about 1,500 people in “detention” awaiting action by a San Francisco immigration court. About 15 percent of them, by some estimates, are San Franciscans. That number, cited by the Mayor’s Office, is probably higher when you include all the former San Franciscans who still work in the city but have been displaced to other parts of the Bay Area.

Even if we only care about San Franciscans, that’s about 250 or 300 people who need help, now. A good lawyer can handle maybe 40 cases at a time. So five lawyers won’t even cover what we know is the problem for the existing population – much less address the growth that we know will happen as the Trump Administration rounds up tens of thousands more people.

Help bridge the shortfall. Donate $10 to CARECEN SF who fight for immigrants

What did Sup. Malia Cohen, who chairs the committee, and Sup. Katy Tang, who is also on the panel, agree to? Three lawyers, maybe just two. And only in temporary positions.

Sup. Norman Yee tried to move Fewer’s compromise plan, and couldn’t get a second.

This is pretty awful, folks. San Francisco politicians just talk forever about Sanctuary City, but when it comes to putting up the money to make that work, they duck.

Oh, and let’s remember, particularly if you are from D5: Sup. London Breed, the board president, appointed this train wreck of a committee.


Fewer made the case persuasively. “There are people’s lives at risk,” she said. She, like everyone else, acknowledged that the mayor has been willing to fund community-based nonprofits that do immigrant-support work. And in fact, the mayor just announced that he’s going to create a new private-sector fund through the San Francisco Interfaith Council that will raise philanthropic money for nonprofits.

Those groups do a lot of amazing work – including education, outreach, counseling and advocacy – but 90 of them wrote a letter to the committee saying they needed the Public Defender’s Office to take on part of the work of what amounts to criminal defense: Representing immigrants in detention who are facing deportation.

Some of those immigrants may have been charged with a crime. Some may have overstayed their visa or crossed the border without permission (which the government says is a crime).

The Mayor’s Office is having a difficult time putting up money to defend the immigrants who are in the justice system. That’s a big reason why Ed Lee doesn’t want to fund the PD’s Office. Fewer put it bluntly:

“Let’s not have the conversation that there are some people who deserve representation and some who don’t,” she said. “There are 1,500 people in a lockdown prison, and two-thirds of them have no prior criminal record.”

Oh, and by the way: If they don’t have a lawyer, they are seven times more likely to be deported. Oh, and by the way: Immigration hearings are in English.

Tang and Cohen both made long statements of support of the concept of protecting immigrants, and thanked all the advocates for coming and testifying. “I agree with all of what has been said,” Tang noted. Cohen called Fewer a “newbie” and said “I appreciate your ability to grow in the spotlight.” (Excuse me: Sandy Fewer served for 12 years as a PTA president, two terms on the School Board, years as a parent organizer with Coleman Advocates … she has way more political experience than Cohen.)

And can we please, please stop this obsequious pattern of thanking all the people who spoke and admiring their courage and conviction — and then voting to stab them in the back?

Both Cohen and Tang said they couldn’t support the plan. Tang couched her concerns in the typical fiscal-conservative language we expect from her. There’s a looming budget deficit, we should use existing resources, she doesn’t like supplemental budget allocations. Besides, she said, San Francisco already spends more per capita on immigrant services than any other city.

Cohen talked about all the other priorities that are at risk under Trump. (For once, at least, she seemed to acknowledge, which the mayor and Breed have not, that there is a huge threat from Washington, potentially involving $350 million or more in budget cuts to San Francisco).

But come on, folks: this is a few million dollars to save a lot of the fabric of our community, to prevent families from being ripped apart. And if Trump and the GOP cut $350 million out of the city budget, we are going to have to find new revenue sources to replace it; there’s not a lot of choice.

Eventually, the committee agreed to fund three lawyers (one a head attorney) and a paralegal, using only existing salary savings in the PD’s Office. Even then, the mayor’s budget director balked, saying she was only authorized to approve two lawyer positions.

In the end the committee essentially turned the whole thing over to Lee, who I am told now is considering funding three lawyer jobs but no head attorney — so this new division won’t have a supervisor to help it grow.

Fewer said she was “disheartened.” Her aide, Chelsea Boilard, told me that they hope this can be a pilot program that can grow in the future.

The Chron headline said “SF supes OK funds to defend immigrants.”

Here’s the reality: In one of the first big tests of whether this city is serious about fighting Trump, the mayor and the supervisors failed. It’s pretty disgraceful.

I can’t believe this Budget Committee. It’s going to be a rough year.


  1. The people going home have criminal convictions & they are the only ones going. Everyone else can stay.

  2. join us on fb? look for California State Politics 3500+ members. Maj in SFBA & we are diverse LGBTQIA supportive

  3. Time to get a ballot initiative prepared in case state legislature has one in the works for this year. That’ll teach them.

  4. It’s all complete BS, just as is their justification for the sanctuary city policy when they claim illegal aliens will fear reporting crimes in their communities without the protection of the policy, when the truth is that they don’t report those crimes anyway.

  5. Nancy, if you hate the rich so much, please, by all means, enjoy the beautiful landscape, tight knit community feeling of some of the poorest parts of the country. I urge you to live in Appalachia, burnt out Baltimore, well you get it.

    Then and only then will you understand that taxes should be sustainable and well spent.

    San Francisco? Squanders every dollar. Now the city is spending money on non citizens?

  6. If they would read the policy they would know the priorities. (1) have been convicted of any criminal offense: (2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved; (3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense: (4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official manner before a governmental agency: (5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits: (6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or (7) in the judgment of an immigration officer. otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

    Parents with US children will not be arbitrarily deported The new policy maintains the current policy: “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion With Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.”‘ and “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are the Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.

    Of course if the parent of citizens or permanent resident is a criminal they will be deported.

  7. Also, Lee is right. This is another example of why progressives can’t govern.

    We’re not sure of the nature or size of this problem. If it relates only to undocumenteds with criminal convictions then I don’t think that the voters would be in favor of the expenditures.

    If it involves peaceful members of our communities then there most likely is support, but should we provide it by bulking up our city bureaucracy or should we fund non profits until the problem passes. Do we need to be paying the pensions of these additional lawyers forever?

    But, of course, if you don’t agree with the progressive’s plan then you are a soulless, heartless pagan.

  8. Some people here are adviocating completely illegal things ykwim? LOL. They have zero concept of laws, constitution, etc.

  9. And how about increasing funds for housing enforcement to make sure landlord who own building with 3 units or more are taxed appropriately for raising rents above the median income as indicated by the feds

    LOL, because that is not legal.

  10. How about increasing the taxes on the computer giants who use our streets

    Great idea, except that you would have to figure out a way to make everyone pay extra to use our streets. You can’t single out a specific group and say that YOU need to pay extra but others don’t.

    It’s that darn US Constitution again. I understand the frustration that it causes you.

  11. I don’t understand the point. Previous generations passed a Chinese Exclusion Act. They passed the Mexican “Repatriation Act” that forced immigrants in the United States back to Mexico. Alexander Hamilton was adamantly opposed to the open immigration policies.

  12. How about taxing as income the difference between what a tenant pays in rent and the market rate rent?

  13. New revenues need to be found. How about increasing taxes on the wealthy, for one source. How about increasing the taxes on the computer giants who use our streets to bus workers to Silicon Valley. And how about increasing funds for housing enforcement to make sure landlord who own building with 3 units or more are taxed appropriately for raising rents above the median income as indicated by the feds.

  14. Why would they be? You realize that SF had GOP mayors before? My relatives were always Dem & Repub.

  15. I’m curious about where my supervisor, Jeff Sheehy was in all of this. He is supposed to be in the Budget & Finance Committee too. Also curious about the fact that the meeting isn’t recorded and is instead listed as being cancelled here: http://sfbos.org/meetings/43

  16. I don’t buy the ripping apart family’s thing used as an emotional appeal. The wife or husband and children of a deported parent can follow the deported parent out of the country; or if citizens say, it’s up to them. If an American citizen commits a crime, families are separated when the criminal goes to jail. Families of criminals are driven apart by the actions of the parent. You can have compassion but that is not a reason not to deport foreign criminals.

  17. There are for more important needs for the money. Why would we want to prevent criminal illegal aliens from being deported?

  18. Your TRUE colors are most certainly shining through 4th Gen SF, and I imagine your relatives and previous generations are horrified.

  19. Your TRUE colors are certainly shining through 4th Gen SF and I’d imagine your relatives and previous generations are horrified.

  20. If President Trump & Congress cuts off funds to SF there needs to be priorities. As far as I know illegals can still contact public defender offices. Priorities mean – we need the first responders (police, fire, ER), muni, BART, roads, streets, etc.

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