While President Donald Trump got ready to unveil his administration’s agenda to Congress, San Francisco leaders on Tuesday moved forward with their own plan to better protect all city residents.
Calling it a matter of public safety, District Attorney George Gascon secured his allegiance with Mexico via a memorandum of understanding with the country’s Consulate General. It underscores the two parties' understanding to protect and provide services to victims and witnesses of crimes, regardless of their immigration status, he said.
Although leaders only renewed a five-year partnership, Gascon said Tuesday’s agreement is more important now, than ever before.
“Not only are immigrants running around scared in our nation today, but other minorities,” Gascon said. “African Americans, Muslims, and people in our Jewish community are also being targeted.”
Gascon said the partnership between Mexico and San Francisco aims to protect immigrants who live within city limits. Officials hope it will encourage reluctant witnesses and victims of crimes to cooperate more with law enforcement.
Gemi Jose Gonzalez Lopez, the Consulate General of Mexico, said the agreement is designed to show people that they are not alone and can trust government institutions in San Francisco, which is already a “sanctuary city.”
“It's very important for us that our communities can know and understand that in this city they are safe, that they should be fearless and [if] they are victims of a crime they should go and report to police,” Lopez said.
Gascon says this partnership has already paid off.
"It's not symbolic," he said. "We know that there are cases, with help from the Mexican consulate, that we have actually brought back witnesses from Mexico who had left the country."
One of those cases involved Jeffrey Bugai. In 2015, he was convicted of sexual assault and impersonating a police officer. Bugai targeted immigrants who had recently come to the United States, and threatened to deport them if they complained about him.
At first, victims were reluctant to come forward, but with the help of the Mexican Consulate, Gascon was able to get the victims to testify and keep Bugai behind bars. That was a victory Gascon says for every San Franciscan, Gascon insisted.
“When you have people committing crimes and they can do so with impunity, they will eventually assault people whether they are immigrants or not,” Gascon said.
Gascon is hoping other cities follow suit and sign similar agreements in the near future.