SF request to opt out of secure communities denied

May 25, 2010 7:25:21 PM PDT
The president announced plans to dispatch as many as 1,200 National Guard troops, to the U.S.-Mexico border. They will help with intelligence and surveillance, against drug runners and illegal immigrants.

But there is growing discontent with a new security policy going into effect at local jails.

Community leaders urged San Mateo County on Tuesday morning to join San Francisco in not allowing fingerprints of arrested suspects to be turned over to the federal immigration agency known as ICE.

However, California Attorney General Jerry Brown sent a letter to San Francisco County Sheriff Mike Hennessey, denying his request to opt-out. Brown said it's not a just local issue, he wants statewide uniformity and 17 counties already are cooperating.

ICE uses the fingerprints to determine if a suspect is an illegal immigrant or guilty of serious crimes. Brown's decision may give San Mateo County little choice.

"I would hope that there's an opportunity to reconsider this and have further discussion, but San Mateo County will follow the law," San Mateo County Supervisor Richard Gordon said.

The attorney general's decision could lead to a lawsuit.

"Our Constitution, the 10th Amendment in particular, would not permit the federal government to impose these kinds of obligations mandatorily on local governments," Sheryl Munoz-Bergman from the International Institute of the Bay Area said.

ABC7 Legal Analyst Dean Johnson says case law favors those who argue a county should be able to say no.

"A federal program cannot commandeer the resources of state and local government for the administration of that program, and that's true even if the resources that are taken from local and state officials are very small, minimal and ephemeral. They just can't do it," he said.

If there is a legal challenge, it could be years before a legal decision is handed down. In the meantime, the court would have to decide whether to allow the fingerprints to continue to be turned over to ICE or whether that process should be stopped until that decision is made.


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