San Francisco: Sanctuary City - A Background

Politicians pander … and in a jurisdiction where there is one overwhelmingly dominant party, they pander to the extreme. While San Francisco is probably the “worst case” example of ideology run amuk, it is clear that San Francisco’s leaders consider themselves above the national law, and that reform will not happen without outside intervention.

The facts of the nationally famous case are largely undisputed:

– An illegal immigrant who had been convicted of non-violent felonies (illegal entry; drug dealing) seven times, and deported five times was turned over by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to San Francisco (at the sheriff department’s request) in connection with a 20 year old marijuana charge which was too old and minor to prosecute. (It is unclear why the request was made, but longstanding personal disputes between the sheriff, the mayor, and the district attorney prevented internal coordination.)

– Consistent with San Francisco policy, the Sheriff’s Department released him in April without informing federal law enforcement, despite an ICE detainer order to keep him in custody.

– Two months later he fatally shot to death a randomly selected young woman at a common tourist location.

– The Sheriff insists that he was operating within City and state policies.

So, how did San Francisco get to this insane policy?

– As mayor in 1985, in response to civil wars in Central America, Diane Feinstein signed the local “City and County Refuge Ordnance” barring city employees from helping federal immigration authorities with investigations or arrests unless there was a court order or state law requiring them to do so. The ban was expanded to include all immigrants in 1989 under uber-liberal  mayor Art Agnos.

– In 2012 Governor Brown vetoed the Trust Act, originally introduced by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, which would have restricted California’s cooperation in the federal Secure Communities program, which relies on local police to hold undocumented immigrants detected upon arrest until ICE can pick them up.

– In 2012 State Attorney General Kamilla Harris – a former San Francisco City Attorney and current US Senate candidate – issued instructions to state law enforcement officials, clarifying that federal immigration detainers issued under the Secure Communities program “are not mandatory, but are merely requests enforceable at the discretion of the state and local agency”.  Court-ordered warrants are required.

– In 2013 the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee unanimously approved legislation to prohibit the release of illegals to ICE unless they have committed serious or violent felonies. (Lee, a moderate by San Francisco standards, is running for reelection in 2015.)

– In late 2013 Governor Brown signed Ammiano’s second attempt at the Trust Act, limiting cooperation with ICE deportation hold requests to those convicted of a serious or violent felony. (Ammiano is out of office due to term limits, but is a potential front-runner for the state senate.)  Harris issued updated directions emphasizing the legal risk for local law enforcement agencies that voluntarily comply with federal detainer requests.

– In 2014, President Obama, without Congressional agreement, revised immigration procedures to greatly expand amnesty for children, and to replace the Secure Communities Program with the Priority Enforcement Program which replaced federal requests to have local agencies detain felons with requests that they be notified prior to the felon’s release.

– In March 2014, Sheriff Ross Mirkirimi barred his staff from giving immigration agents “information or access to records of detainees including their citizenship status, their booking and arrest documents, and their release dates.” (Mirkirimi is facing a difficult reelection campaign due in part to an admission of domestic battery and departmental performance issues.)

And what is the local response to the murder – aside from the broad ducking for cover by City leadership?

–  A small poll by Survey USA of 625 San Francisco adults surveyed, showed that 46% of Hispanics felt San Francisco should stop being a sanctuary city, 52% of Hispanics think our current sanctuary policy goes too far, 53% of Hispanics say that any undocumented immigrant who commits any crime should be turned over to immigration officials, and that 72% of Hispanics believe in light of last week’s shooting, the city should change its sanctuary city policy. (As much as Republicans are embarrassed by Donald Trump, Hispanics are offended by criminals in their community.)

– In what is considered as courage worthy of front page coverage, [mc_name name=’Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000062′ ] declared “I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies … should not have been released.” No kidding? Also, no indication of what specific policies should be changed.

– The liberal leadership of the Board of Supervisors expressed regret to the family of the murdered woman, but emphasized that the “no federal cooperation” policy encourages interaction between the Hispanic community and the police and should not be changed.

– The San Francisco Chronicle editorial page contains four arguments:

— The fault lies with the Bureau of Prisons for releasing Sanchez to the City when he should have been directly transferred to ICE.

— The root cause is the refusal of the Republican Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

— This is another example of the need for stricter gun control.

— Donald Trump is a racist.

There are a few things that the American people can do:

1. Elect a Republican president in 2016. A Clinton presidency would not differ greatly from the Obama presidency in refusing to enforce immigration laws. Securing the border requires more than building fences.

2. Pass legislation outlawing “Sanctuary Cities” where local law enforcement agencies refuse to enforce federal laws.

3. Demand that common sense prevail.


This week’s video is a not-too-technical discussion of the Chinese Communist Party’s so-far futile effort to control trillion dollar markets. Like the Greek euro crisis, this collapse of a bubble calls into question the economic / political viability of a 21st century economic model. Unlike the Greeks, it could have broad international consequences.



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