Dueling protests over SF's sanctuary law

July 31, 2008 5:58:26 PM PDT
San Francisco's controversial sanctuary policy triggers a showdown at City Hall.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom says he has already begun a comprehensive review of the city's sanctuary ordinance. But he stands by the spirit of the law which has led an anti-immigrant rights group to demand his resignation.

"I want the country back that i was born into, this is not that country," said minutemen Paul Farmer.

The minutemen usually stage protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Wednesday, about a dozen of them brought their anti-immigration message to the steps of city hall, to protest San Francisco's sanctuary law, which provides refuge to illegal immigrants. About 200 counter-demonstrations tried to drown them out.

The minutemen were drawn to San Francisco by last month's triple homicide of Anthony Bologna and his two sons. Edwin Ramos, a Salvadoran native, who benefited from San Francisco's sanctuary policy has been charged with the crime.

Immigrant rights supporters say that incident is being unfairly used.

"We stand with the family and the victims. We're not going to let them and their tragedy be exploited to throw away a just law," said Hillary Ronen from La Raza Centro Legal.

But the minutemen are calling the mayor, district attorney and head of juvenile probation accessories to murder.

"This is not all the mayor's fault, I will give him that. But I am putting blame on the mayor and asking for his resignation," said Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist.

The mayor, of course, has no intention of resigning, but indicates change is coming to the city's sanctuary ordinance.

He says it has in his words a convoluted 20 year history that's been based on various memos, oral agreements and past practices. Now a comprehensive review is underway.

"We need to tighten it all up and put it back together in an appropriate way that maintains the spirit that brought us here in the first place, that I will not back off on, that I believe in principally," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Tempers flared at the demonstration. Two people, both immigrant rights advocates were arrested, basically for disorderly conduct. The sheriff says they are likely to be cited and released.


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