Secure Communities to start in SF on June 8
Despite Sheriff Michael Hennessey's efforts to opt out, San Francisco will be joining the federal immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, after all, on Tuesday, June 8.*
California's Department of Justice already signed an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow the agency to review fingerprints collected in county jails to determine if those booked are in the country illegally. But it remains unclear whether an individual county can choose not to participate in the program once the state has made an agreement with ICE.
Last Tuesday, state Attorney General Jerry Brown weighed in and turned down a request Hennessey had made to block ICE from reviewing fingerprints from San Francisco's jail. In a letter, Brown wrote to Hennessey: “Because I think this program serves both public safety and the interest of justice, I am declining your request.” Later in the letter, Brown wrote that it was not just 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," he wrote.
Hennessey has voiced disappointment with Brown's decision. He says Secure Communities violates San Francisco's sanctuary policy, which only allows local officials to report people’s immigration status to federal immigration authorities if they are an adult charged with or convicted of a felony.
Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said her office “will be watching to see what is different in the number of detainers issued by ICE, and how many people that affects.”
Hirst said there wouldn’t be any physical evidence at the jail once Secure Communities into effect. “The actual mechanics of the program are invisible to the booking agency,” Hirst said. “It requires no hardware or software or
changes of procedure or anything.”
Immigrant rights advocates have announced they will picket in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at 630 Sansome Street this morning to protest the implementation of the program in San Francisco.
Last week, San Mateo County joined Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Sonoma on the roster of Bay Area counties already participating in Secure Communities.
Secure Communities promises to identify more immigrants in the country illegally, but a new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University reveals that the immigration court system’s backlog of cases is growing. Data updated through March shows there are more than 13,300 open cases at San Francisco's immigration court, an 18 percent increase from last year. Open cases in San Francisco’s court - which serves all of Northern California - have been pending for an average of 429 days, a slight uptick from 412 days in 2009.
*The general understanding amongst activist groups and county officials has been that Secure Communities would go into effect today, June 1, but that's not the case. ICE confirmed to us this morning that the actual start date for the program is Tuesday, June 8.