SF board changes tack on immigrant minors

October 27, 2009 10:01:31 PM PDT
The city of San Francisco could be facing an unprecedented legal battle pitting the mayor against the Board of Supervisors. It's a fight over the city's controversial sanctuary policy for illegal immigrants.

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A small group of demonstrators stood outside City Hall protesting Mayor Gavin Newsom's expected veto of a new sanctuary policy.

The new policy passed the Board of Supervisors in a second final vote today in a chamber packed with immigrant rights supporters.

The measure requires that undocumented juveniles picked up on a felony charge be turned over to federal officials for possible deportation only if they are convicted of the crime, not when they are first arrested as is currently the case.

The board approved the change with enough votes to override a veto by the mayor, but Newsom says he won't enforce the newly passed legislation because it breaks federal law, though he has been willing to break federal law before.

"It's completely different circumstance in every way. This is about people committing crimes and putting the lives of San Franciscans at risk," said Mayor Newsom.

The mayor also cites a federal criminal investigation into the city sanctuary policy and two lawsuits as reasons to ignore the ordinance.

But can he legally pick and choose which laws to obey? David Levine is a professor at Hastings College of the Law.

"Really the best thing to do is go to court and seek declaratory relief and get a court to say whether his interpretation of how federal law and local law fit together is correct or not," he said.

The author of the legislation, Supervisor David Campos, says suing the mayor would be unprecedented, but it could come down to that.

"It's pretty clear what mayors have the authority to do and mayors don't have the authority to decide for themselves what is legal and what isn't," said Campos.

The mayor has 10 days to veto the legislation. The board has 30 days to override it and then it would become law.

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