Newsom gets tough on sanctuary laws

July 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco's mayor has had a change of heart over the city's sanctuary law. After the latest embarrassing incident involving eight juvenile drug dealers who escaped from a group home, Mayor Newsom now says, if young illegal immigrants are convicted of felonies, the city will turn them over to federal authorities.

Newsom is trying to put to rest the controversy over the city's sanctuary law and how it was applied to juvenile drug offenders in this country illegally.

"We've always said that you'll be deported if you commit felonies. That's been the case in the adult system. There's been this loophole in the juvenile system. That loophole has been closed," says Newsom.

Until recently, the practice was to fly juvenile offenders, including young crack cocaine dealers, back to their homelands at taxpayer expense, rather than turn them over to immigration officials.

More recently, they were sent to group homes in San Bernardino County -- again on the taxpayer dime.

The Mayor says no more.

"Make no mistake. Sanctuary city is not a place for people to feel they can come in with impunity and break the law."

San Francisco's sanctuary law prohibits city officials from cooperating in federal raids or enforcing immigration laws. Protecting juvenile offenders has been costly.

The Mayor says since January 1, 2005 to June 4th of this year, 162 illegal immigrants have been held at juvenile hall at a cost of $285 a day, totaling $2.3 million.

Immigration opponent Yeh Ling Ling says that should have been spent on legal residents.

"There are many taxpayers in San Francisco who are struggling to make ends meet and the Mayor is making them to provide services to the illegals and their families. This is outrageous."

San Francisco is not the only city with sanctuary laws. Oakland calls itself a city of refuge and does not participate in immigration round-ups.

San Jose has a large immigrant population and some publications list it as a sanctuary city. Mayor Chuck Reed says it's not.

"No, I think the sanctuary city connotation brings a connotation that we're not gonna' follow the federal law and that's not the San Jose way."

Newsom says the San Francisco way is about to change. Meetings will now take place with juvenile court judges, the District Attorney and the Public Defender to try to come up with a strategy for handling the cases. 22 undocumented immigrants are in juvenile hall right now.


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