San Francisco – Civil rights groups are applauding Mayor Ed Lee’s decision to immediately begin implementation of a city law, passed in November 2009, that restores due process for immigrant youth in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system and ensures that innocent youth are not torn from their families for deportation. However, at the same time, the groups are expressing disappointment that the Mayor will only be implementing the policy for accompanied youth (i.e., youth who have immediate family here) and not for unaccompanied youth. The groups urge him to fully implement the duly-enacting, common-sense law so that all innocent youth receive protections.
The due process policy is a city law passed by a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors in November 2009. The law ensures that all immigrant youth receive their day in court for any alleged charges and that only youth who are found to have committed a felony are reported to ICE for deportation.
Implementation of the broadly-supported law, endorsed by over 70 organizations, had been stalled until today due to former Mayor Newsom’s refusal to enact the law. Under Newsom’s direction, Juvenile Probation reported over 160 youth to ICE at the point of arrest, prior to the youth receiving due process, based only on a juvenile probation officer’s “reasonable suspicion” that a youth is undocumented. The problematic past policy tore innocent youth from their families and spread fear among immigrant residents of coming forward to cooperate with police.
Juvenile Probation Department (JPD)’s prior policy of reporting youth for life-altering deportation at arrest went well above and beyond any obligations under federal law. As a cadre of legal scholars, including University of San Francisco Law Professor Bill Ong Hing, have repeatedly made clear, there is no requirement imposed on city officials under federal law to ask about immigration status or to report individuals suspected of being undocumented.
Ana Perez, executive director of Central American Resource Center, declared, “While we appreciate Mayor Lee taking action to finally begin implementation, we are concerned that he is only implementing the policy for accompanied youth and not for youth who may be unaccompanied because they are trafficked to this country, are orphans, or are escaping persecution.”
Supervisor David Campos also applauded the Mayor for implementing the policy while also expressing disappointment that it is only partial implementation. He stated at today’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, “This body enacted that law and that law needs to be respected. It is not up to the executive branch to second guess the legislative branch.”
Supervisor Eric Mar commended Supervisor Campos for his comments, adding that he also strongly supports full implementation for all youth.
Supervisor Jane Kim, who asked the Mayor during the Board’s Question Time about his plans for implementation, stated after hearing the answer, “my hope is that he will commit to full implementation of this policy.”
The demand for complete implementation also is supported by Patricia Lee, Managing Attorney in the Juvenile Unit at the Public Defender’s Office. She explains, “If you want the immigrant community to feel safe enough to cooperate with police and probation, then those agencies should not be viewed as representatives of immigration. My clients and their families are scared of probation, they are scared of police. Selective implementation of the due process policy for only accompanied youth and not to unaccompanied youth does not solve this problem.”
Angela Chan, staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus stated, that “Juvenile Probation’s prior policy of reporting innocent youth exacerbated the impact of a broken federal immigration system on local immigrant families. We appreciate that Mayor Lee has taken this long awaited step forward because he values family unity and due process for youth. However, we ask that the Mayor not exclude unaccompanied youth from receiving due process protections.”
Charles Washington, the Muni bus driver and longtime San Francisco resident, whose wife and 14 year old son were almost separated from him as a result of the prior Juvenile Probation policy, expressed his concern that the policy would only be implemented for some youth. He noted, “I’m glad to see Mayor Lee is doing the right thing by implementing the due process policy. However, he should not leave any youth, especially those who are most vulnerable, behind.”