Immigration advocates say SFPD violated city's sanctuary city ordinance

Byby Sergio Quintana KGO logo
Thursday, January 21, 2016
SFPD accused of violating sanctuary city ordinace
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Immigration advocates are accusing the San Francisco Police Department of violating the city's sanctuary city ordinance after officers released a man that ICE agents waited for outside the station.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Immigration advocates are accusing the San Francisco Police Department of violating the city's sanctuary city ordinance after officers released a man that ICE agents were waiting for outside the police station.

Pedro Zarceno-Figueroa was held by San Francisco police officers because he had an outstanding warrant. He was picked up by immigration agents at the police station, which is something that almost never happens.

Sam Francisco prides itself as a sanctuary city and other than turning over violent felons, the city rarely cooperates with requests from immigration officials. But a man who went to police for help is now in federal custody. So now, some are asking how ICE agents knew to wait for him as he left the police department.

Leilani Cortez, 8, went with her father to police headquarters in December to pick up their car after it had been stolen.

But she described her last words to him as he sat in an ICE vehicle. "I just told him that 'I love you' and yeah, that's it," Cortez said.

According to his attorneys, Zarceno-Figueroa came to the U.S. from El Salvador more than 10 years ago seeking asylum.

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They said he's not a violent felon, so there's no urgent reason why ICE should be after him.

An ICE spokesperson released a statement saying: "Pedro Zarceno-Figueroa was taken into custody Dec. 2 by officers assigned to one of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Fugitive Operations Teams. The Fugitive Operations officers targeted Mr. Zarceno-Figueroa for arrest based upon his conviction for DUI and an outstanding order of removal issued by an immigration judge in 2005. Mr. Zarceno-Figueroa's case is now being reviewed by the immigration courts to determine whether he has a legal basis to remain in the U.S. ICE Fugitive Operations Teams are responsible for locating, arresting and removing at-large foreign nationals who meet the agency's enforcement priorities, including convicted criminals and other individuals who pose a potential threat to public safety."

But immigration advocates are not just going after ICE, they're angry at San Francisco police.

Public defender Jeff Adachi joined them in accusing the police of violating the city's due process for all or sanctuary city ordinance. "We want to make sure that the police officers who committed this offense and obviously violated the law themselves are held accountable," Adachi said.

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But San Francisco police said they did not cooperate with ICE agents. They said they followed procedure and released Zarceno-Figueroa when immigration and customs would not give details on a judge's warrant that was in the national system. "We're going to confirm a warrant and if it's not confirmed we'll release the individual, which is what we did in this case. I think it was out of the norm for an ICE agent to have showed up at the station. I don't think anyone expected that to happen," San Francisco Police Department Capt. Jerry Difilippo said.

Zarceno-Figueroa remains in ICE custody. He's been denied bail while he awaits a hearing on his case in 2019.