Pubdate: Sun, 6 Jul 2008
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: A - 1, Front Page
Copyright: 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer


San Francisco's 1989 sanctuary law grew out of the religious-based 
sanctuary movement through which churches across the country offered 
a safe haven to Central Americans who fled civil war and political 
persecution but were unable to gain asylum in the United States.

For local governments, however, the motivation behind sanctuary 
policies today has more to do with effective policing than 
humanitarian impulses.

"Some police departments say ... 'We don't want our police officers 
enforcing immigration law because if they do, victims and witnesses 
of crimes won't cooperate with us,' " said Kevin Johnson, dean of the 
UC Davis law school and an expert on immigration and civil rights law.

Last week, San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance came under fire after 
The Chronicle revealed the Juvenile Probation Department's practice 
of flying illegal immigrant teenagers convicted of drug offenses back 
to their home countries or housing them in unlocked group homes. 
Mayor Gavin Newsom denounced the practice, and city officials are now 
working with federal immigration authorities to develop a new 
approach for handling juvenile illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

Legal analysts, city officials and immigrant advocates say San 
Francisco's practice was not required - and not intended - by sanctuary laws.

Former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara, who is now a fellow at 
the conservative Hoover Institution, was aghast at the San Francisco 
Juvenile Probation Department's approach: "It's just incredible to 
think they were spending all that money to help criminals evade being 
deported," he said.

But he directed his officers not to cooperate with federal 
immigration raids when he was chief from 1976 to 1991 and said the 
policy played an important part in rebuilding community trust in the 

"There's a real debate going on nationally in police circles, but in 
almost every large city I know of, police departments have the same 
attitude: We have to work with these communities; we can't have them 
viewing the police as the enemy because then you get this 'Don't 
snitch' policy," McNamara said.

Richmond police spokesman Lt. Mark Gagan has said his department's 
policy is not to investigate immigration status on its own but to 
work with the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement 
in dealing with violent criminals.

San Francisco is among scores of cities in California and around the 
country with sanctuary laws, according to the National Immigration 
Law Center. Several states also have such policies. The laws vary, 
but most bar the use of local resources to enforce federal 
immigration rules or prohibit police and other local officials from 
questioning residents about their immigration status. They do 
generally allow cooperation with federal immigration officials in 
dealing with criminals.

San Francisco's "city of refuge" policy arose in the 1980s when the 
United States was backing the governments of El Salvador and 
Guatemala and didn't recognize most of the refugees from those 
countries as having legitimate asylum claims.

Kathleen Healy, a nun with the Sisters of the Presentation, remembers 
working with St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church to establish what is 
believed to be San Francisco's first sanctuary church.

"We felt we were doing the right thing, even though we were warned we 
could be arrested," she said. "We took three refugee women into our convent."

In 2007, faith leaders launched a new sanctuary movement geared 
toward protecting today's undocumented immigrants, most of whom are 
in the country for economic reasons.

A pledge drafted by the interfaith New Sanctuary Movement states in 
part, "We are deeply grieved by the violence done to families through 
immigration raids. We cannot in good conscience ignore such suffering 
and injustice."

Federal law doesn't require local governments to report illegal 
immigrants, but ICE officials encourage local and state law 
enforcement to collaborate.

"We understand there may be policies and procedures at the local 
level that affect the way that collaboration can occur," said ICE 
spokeswoman Virginia Kice. "Our goal is to impress upon local 
agencies the ways the community can benefit."

Federal immigration officials have been increasing their efforts to 
screen jail and prison inmates to find people who may be deportable, 
including both undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants who have 
committed certain felonies.

Some local officials - from Florida state troopers to Maricopa 
County, Ariz., sheriff's deputies - are getting training from federal 
immigration authorities and being deputized to enforce immigration 
law themselves.

"Why is it that some cities are sanctuary cities and some are tough 
on immigrants? That reveals the ambivalence we have as a nation 
toward immigrants of all sorts and undocumented immigrants 
particularly," said Johnson, the UC Davis dean. "This is one of the 
myriad issues that come up in immigration law that hopefully Congress 
and the new president will take up in the near future.

"Sometimes you want a policy even if you don't like what the policy 
is. I think the nation is yearning for a policy one way or another."

San Francisco's City of Refuge Ordinance

The ordinance reads, in part: "No department, agency, commission, 
officer or employee of the City and County of San Francisco shall use 
any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal 
immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the 
immigration status of individuals in the City and County of San 
Francisco unless such assistance is required by federal or State 
statute, regulation or court decision."

The law was amended in 1992 to add: "Nothing in this Chapter shall 
prohibit, or be construed as prohibiting, a law enforcement officer 
from identifying and reporting any person pursuant to State an 
federal law or regulation who is in custody after being booked for 
the alleged commission of a felony and is suspected of violating the 
civil provisions of the immigration laws."



More than 80 U.S. cities or states have sanctuary laws. They range 
widely from philosophical resolutions to more specific guidelines for 
police conduct.

California Sanctuaries


East Palo Alto


Garden Grove (Orange County)

Los Angeles



San Diego

San Francisco

San Jose

San Rafael

Santa Cruz


Sonoma County

U.S. Sanctuary Cities

(A partial list)

Anchorage, Alaska

Hartford, Conn.


Portland, Maine



Ann Arbor, Mich.



St. Paul, Minn.

St. Louis

Newark, N.J.

New York


Austin, Texas



Madison, Wis.

Sanctuary States


District of Columbia


New Mexico


Source: National Immigration Law Center
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake