San Francisco’s sheriff says he plans to stop cooperating with federal immigration officials and will start releasing illegal immigrants who have been jailed for minor offenses before they can be picked up for deportation.
The law, which has caused tension between local and federal authorities, prohibits officials from assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in cases that do not involve felonies.
The city currently keeps low-level offenders ICE has identified as illegal immigrants through fingerprints until immigration officials collect them. The Examiner reports that 111 inmates were detained for deportation between last June and February.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told the newspaper that Hennessey’s decision was unfortunate.
The Examiner has more details, including the following:
The new policy, set to begin June 1, means illegal immigrants arrested for petty crimes such as disorderly conduct, drunk in public or shoplifting will not be held in jail until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials come to collect them.
San Francisco would become the first county in California to implement such a policy, he said.
The ICE program in dispute is called Secure Communities. The program requires local police to check the immigration status of arrested suspects by running their fingerprints against a centralized federal database. ICE requires even non-criminal arrestees to be detained if their status is in question. The program has been controversial because it has contributed to the deportation of thousands of non-criminals, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and others. Furthermore, San Francisco considers itself a sanctuary city, having passed an ordinance that prohibits local law enforcement from this type of cooperation with immigration authorities.
Last week, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee passed AB 1081, also known as The TRUST Act. The bill would allow California counties to opt out of Secure Communities.
For more on the Secure Communities issue, listen to this interview with California Watch’s Ryan Gabrielson.