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Disclaimer – I LOVE SAN FRANCISCO
The experiment was a noble one — Instead of complying with federal immigration law, city officials in San Francisco would take on the cost of flying juveniles convicted of drug crimes to their countries. That would prevent federal deportation and criminal proceedings against these youth, giving them a clean slate and fresh start.
I have to give it up for San Francisco. It was a truly progressive, forward-thinking idea until 8 Honduran youth escaped from the Southern California group homes where they were being housed prior to their flights back to Honduras. Now, the city is the laughing stock of the country.
These are the kind of stories that annoy even progressive-minded Americans. Local San Franciscans are angry. Why are their tax dollars being used to fly these youth to their countries when they can be simply handed over to the federal government to prosecute? Well, the city has a sanctuary policy of not complying with federal immigration laws and harboring undocumented residents. Also, law enforcement in San Francisco and Berkeley are generally much more relaxed about drug laws than other places in the country. As a result, we start abusing our SANCTUARY CITY policy to harbor and protect juvenile crack cocaine dealers.
Yes, the alternative is worse from a human rights point of view–we are talking about juveniles after all who probably have no other means of subsistence. The problem is that the battle lines have been drawn and there is no middle ground in our restrictive immigration system. So when stories like these break out, it is tough to defend the “undocumented immigrant” or sanctuary city policies since we are no longer talking about undocumented students, hard-working immigrants who stay out of trouble, or migrant women slaving away in used-clothing factories (re:Houston).
Given by the comments at the SF Chronicle, an overwhelming majority of San Franciscans think the city is absolutely absurd for this sort of behavior. This one is actually in-line with how the city could be more forward-thinking:
Dear Gavin – Please just release them prior to booking, and save us some money. Love, the Taxpayers
Another way of looking at it: Since the 8 Honduran teens escaped the homes, they are now saving taxpayers money by being “productive members of society.”
The problem is not with small-time drug-dealers on the streets; it is with the bigger administration of criminalizing drug use and not attacking the source of the problem. By the same token, the problem does not lie with undocumented juvenile drug offenders, but a neo-liberal globalization that has created dire-enough conditions to perpetuate poverty, crime, hopelessness in many undeveloped and developing regions of the world.
I cannot sit and defend the behavior of the Honduran youth or city officials by providing rationales or excuses. Yet, this does not mean I support federal immigration or drug laws.
What I can do is grin at the goofy policies of San Francisco city officials, some of which have led to great social movements and progress for this state and country.