The fate of Tracey Washington and her son, who was not identified, called attention to a measure instituted by Mayor Gavin Newsom in July 2008 that required officials to hand to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement any minor arrested for a felony and suspected of being in the country illegally.
Newsom adopted this stance after the city was accused of protecting from deportation young offenders who went on to commit other crimes. According to ICE, 167 minors have been referred to them under this policy.
Since then, the city's Board of Supervisors have voted to reverse Newsom's policy and prohibit law enforcement from turning over minors to federal authorities unless they are convicted of a felony. But the mayor has vowed not to enforce the new measure, arguing it violates state and federal law.
In this case, the boy was charged with assault, extortion and robbery -- charges that would likely be reduced if he had a chance to go before a judge, said Angela Chan, attorney with the Asian Law Caucus who was advising the family. But the teenager will not have a chance to go before a judge, said Chan.
The boy entered the United States under a visa waiver more than a year ago with his mother. Tracey Washington had been dating Charles Washington, an American citizen and San Francisco native.
They married in April 2009. Mother and son, unaware they had a 90-day deadline to apply for legal residency, missed their opportunity and lost their legal status.
Charles Washington, the boy's stepfather, was shocked to see the consequences of the child's action.
"It was just a case of a kid being a kid -- of my son making a bad decision," he said. "This situation is rough on the family. It's going to be rough on our son."
Charles Washington said he wasn't aware of the city's policy until the teenager was arrested and reported to ICE.
"He hasn't been convicted of anything," he said.