Newsom launches sanctuary city investigation


San Francisco has, for many years, consistently refused to refer juvenile immigrant offenders to federal authorities for possible deportation.

Mayor Gavin Newsom reversed that practice this year after learning that the city had been sending many of the troubled youngsters to group homes in other counties.

But, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice is still giving grants for nonprofit agencies to provide services to young immigrant felons.

The office approved $200,000 for Mission neighborhood centers and the Instituto Familiar De La Raza center for this budget year.

The two groups and another nonprofit, Legal Services for Children, received close to half a million dollars under the grant program from 2006 to 2008.

The center called Instituto Familiar de La Raza was the only group which returned our calls. Alberto Perez says immigration status is not a requisite for their services, which the funding supports.

"Mental health, health services, sometimes legal services and in some cases, immigrant legal services," says Perez from Instituto Familiar de La Raza.

U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello tells ABC7 that they and others may be violating federal laws on harboring illegal immigrants. He says his office has launched an investigation to see if criminal charges should be filed, but it'll be a difficult case.

"I think we'll probably wind up concluding is that there are plenty of conspirators in the process, and whether that means that's necessarily a criminal prosecution, I'm not so sure," says Russoniello.

Senator Barbara Boxer was asked Monday in San Francisco how she feels about the controversy.

"Anyone who's committed a crime needs to go away from this country and go back because we're very openhearted but not if someone commits a crime," says Boxer.

Mayor Newsom says he's also launched an investigation of the effects of the city's sanctuary law.

"We'll be moving quite deliberately in a direction to tighten up this ordinance. Again, it's not a shield, the sanctuary city, it's not a shield for criminals."

For more on this, check out the Back Story.

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