SF Supes decisively pass resolution encouraging further limits to ICE “Holds” as scandal engulfs controversial S-Comm program

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For immediate release: Dec. 13, 2011      
 
Contacts: Angela Chan, Asian Law Caucus, angelac@asianlawcaucus.org ; Jon Rodney, CIPC, jrodney@caimmigrant.org <tel:%28510%29%20207-9520>
 
 
Community groups, Supes praise Sheriff’s leadership, 
Support broader reforms in local policy to protect public safety and resources

 
San Francisco - Amid growing criticism that the controversial “Secure” Communities or S-Comm deportation program is hurting public safety and causing the detention of even U.S. citizens, the SF Board of Supervisors voted by an 8-3 supermajority this afternoon to support and encourage San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and Juvenile Probation Chief William Sifferman to further limit the use of local funds to respond to voluntary – and burdensome - immigration “holds” or “detainer” requests. The resolution was introduced by Supervisor Mar, co-sponsored by Supervisors Chiu, Avalos, Campos and Kim; and supported by Supervisors Cohen, Mirkarimi, and Wiener. Following the vote, community supporters gave an enthusiastic standing ovation.
 
The measure declares that “entanglement between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) harms public safety and interferes with community policing strategies by increasing fear in immigrant communities of coming forward to report crimes” and supports the adoption a policy of not using local funds to respond to ICE “detainer” requests, building on Sheriff Hennessey’s earlier pioneering reforms on this issue.
 
ICE “Holds” explained: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds or detainers are optional requests, frequently triggered by S-Comm, that ICE sends to local jails to ask them to detain community members for extra time so that the individual can be picked up for deportation. Local jails bear the brunt of the costs of responding to ICE holds, including the additional length of time individuals are held beyond the point they would be released if not for the immigration hold.  ICE holds have come under increased scrutiny in recent months with revelations they have led to the needless prolonged detention of immigrant domestic violence victims, street vendors arrested only for selling food without a permit, and even U.S. citizens. 
 
At a public safety hearing earlier this month (video <http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=44&clip_id=13736> ), numerous local community organizations spoke to the great fear S-Comm had created in local communities. At the hearing, Supervisor Campos remarked, “If you are victim of crime, and the witness is undocumented, you want that person to come forward.”
 
Victims, Citizens ensnared: Concerns have grown in the wake of a recent report by UC Berkeley’s Warren Institute <http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Secure_Communities_by_the_Numbers.pdf>  which estimated that nationwide, about 3,600 U.S. Citizens were apprehended by ICE due to S-Comm.  And late last month, U.S. Citizen Antonio Montejano <http://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/end-secure-communities-now>  of Los Angeles spoke out about his arrest on minor charges and his subsequent prolonged detention due to an immigration hold under S-Comm. Despite repeatedly telling officers he is a native-born citizen, Montejano was held in Los Angeles County Jail from Nov. 5 through Nov. 9 for ICE at local expense.
 
San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and other law enforcement leaders have also expressed serious concerns <http://articles.sfgate.com/2011-05-01/opinion/30222128_1_immigration-laws-fingerprints-customs-enforcement>  that the program is hurting public safety by causing victims and witnesses of crime to fear coming forward. One Bay area case which has highlighted the damaging impacts of S-Comm and immigration holds is that of Norma <http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/25/local/la-me-secure-communities-20110425> , a San Francisco Domestic violence victim ensnared by S-Comm after calling the police for help.
 
We thank Sheriff Hennessey for his tremendous leadership in exposing the truth about S-Comm, an unfair burden which ICE forced on our local government with a great lack transparency and oversight. The program compounds the unfairness of our broken immigration system, and undermines trust in local law enforcement. We hope San Francisco will continue to reform local policy and further limit our response to these harmful detainer requests so that community members aren’t separated from their loved ones and swept into ICE’s out of control dragnet,” said Supervisor Eric Mar.
 
In June of this year, Sheriff Hennessey took a historic first step toward restoring community trust in local law enforcement by changing department policy to not respond to ICE detainers in a limited number of cases. In the wake of Hennessey’s leadership, Santa Clara County, Cook County, IL, and New York City have subsequently enacted deeper reforms which further curtail responding to detainers so as to preserve the “bright line” between local law enforcement and a federal immigration system widely regarded as broken and out-of-control.
 
The San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee spearheaded community support for the issue. Organizations supporting the resolution include: Asian Law Caucus, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Arab Resources and Organizing Center,Causa Justa:Just Cause; Carecen, Community United Against Violence, Dolores St. Community Services, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, La Raza Centro Legal, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, San Francisco Organizing Project, Omid Advocates for Human Rights and the National Lawyers' Guild-SF, Young Workers United, California Immigrant Policy Center, and Instituto Familiar de la Raza.