27 October 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Showdown: Gavin Newsom vs. Sanctuary City Policy

San FranciscoIn the absence of sound immigration reform, states and local jurisdictions have had to come up with creative ways to uphold the law while also protecting the most vulnerable residents. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation last week requiring that undocumented youth can only be turned over to federal immigration officials after they are convicted of a felony. Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to give ‘no credence‘ to this new policy even though the Board of Supervisors has enough votes to overturn his veto.

The new policy will prevent innocent youth from being separated from their families and from being unnecessarily reported to ICE for deportation. Mayor Gavin Newsom, gearing up for his gubernatorial run, wants all undocumented residents to be turned over to ICE upon arrest, denying immigrant juveniles the right to due process. The City of San Francisco is clearly worried about the costs of litigation even though sanctuary city policies have been in place for the past twenty years without serious litigation

When it comes to legal rationale, San Francisco has a right to exercise due process of law, which is entitled to everyone in this country regardless of legal status. Professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram of Santa Clara Law School argues that the city’s sanctuary policy is defensible:

On the merits of the intra-city debate, I believe that the public safety rationales related to community cooperation with law enforcement, along with a desire to see families kept together, and all people treated humanely, argue in favor of the Supervisor’s bold policy. In addition, it does not stop federal authorities from enforcing federal mandates.

The new sanctuary city policy strikes a good balance between the principles of law and family values by reporting young people to ICE only upon their formal indictment. There is no point in causing extraordinary grievances by breaking up families when someone has commited no crime. Alleged illegal presence is not a crime and does not merit deportation in the face of congressional failure to reform antiquated immigration laws.

Photo credit: SFBrit (Creative Commons Attribution)

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