SF re-writes some of its sanctuary city policies

July 9, 2008 11:19:34 PM PDT
San Francisco is rewriting its policy on how to deal with immigrant juveniles caught breaking the law, after the city was blasted for protecting them from federal officials. But members of the public are urging city leaders to think twice before making any big changes.

Immigrant juveniles caught breaking the law, shouldn't be seen as criminals, but as kids in need of help.

That was the prevailing sentiment among members of the public who came to address the Juvenile Probation Commission at City Hall.

"They sell drugs because they want to make money. That's it, they can sell anything, it doesn't matter to them. They are not tied to crack, they just need to make money," said Angela Chan from the Asian Law Caucus.

City leaders are drafting new policy after revelations that San Francisco was shielding immigrant juvenile crack dealers from the feds, by either flying them to their native countries or by putting them in group homes throughout California.

The long-held practice created national outrage after eight teenage Honduran drug dealers placed in a San Bernardino County group home escaped.

"San Francisco had not only a legal obligation, but a moral obligation to notify us. They did not do that," said Michelle Scray from the San Bernardino County Probation Department.

Despite the uproar, immigrant advocates are urging city leaders to avoid making any hasty, blanket-policy decisions.

"I want them to continue to be consistent with all the mandates of our juvenile and federal law, both state and federal law which is you individually look at each child, you look at their best interest, you look at permanency, rehabilitation, reunification when possible and you look at that in an individual basis," said Abigail Trillin from Legal Services for Children.

No telling whether that message will resonate throughout City Hall.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has said, the city will now turn over undocumented immigrant juveniles found guilty of felonies over to the feds.

It's up to the Probation Department to enforce whatever policy the city ultimately comes up with.

"We certainly have listened to the input from the community and we will continue to engage them in this discussion. At the same time we recognize we have a responsibility to public safety and we intend to comply with that expectation to follow the law," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

City leaders hope to unveil their new policy in a matter of weeks. They've been meeting every day, hammering out the details.


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