San Francisco Officially a Sanctuary City

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 17: A same-sex couple holds hands as they enter San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Same-sex couples throughout California are rushing to get married as counties begin issuing marriage license after a State Supreme Court ruling to allow same-sex marriage. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A federal program that checks the immigration status of arrestees is being implemented in San Francisco despite the local sheriff's attempt to opt out.  

     The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as Secure Communities goes into effect in the city Tuesday. It requires local authorities to share fingerprint data with federal authorities.    

    Sheriff Michael Hennessey was denied earlier this month when he asked the state's attorney general if the county could refuse take part. He said the program conflicts with San Francisco's Sanctuary City policy, which turns over to immigration authorities only immigrants who are booked for felonies.  

    Officials say the program has been deployed in more than 20 states, and will be in place nationwide by 2013. 

    In California, the program is already active in 17 counties,  including Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

     Under the new system, the fingerprints of those arrested for any  crime -- felony or misdemeanor -- will be shared with ICE via the state  criminal database to determine whether to place an immigration hold and  initiate deportation proceedings. Previously, the sheriff would only report  the names of arrestees whose residency could not be verified.

    ICE claims Secure Communities will allow greater screening to  catch violent criminals, including those with prior convictions, who lie  about their name or residency at booking, and prevent them from later being  released back into the community.

    Kice said ICE would consider delaying implementation in specific  jurisdictions.

    "We want to be receptive to local concerns, and we want to work  with local agencies to address any issues they have," Kice said.

    San Francisco sheriff's spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said she was  unaware of the June 8 date change and said her agency has not requested a  delay.

    Dozens rallied outside a local ICE office in San Francisco this  morning to protest the program, according to Asian Law Caucus attorney Angela  Chan.

     The protesters claim that, contrary to the program's name, it will  not make communities safer but rather discourage members of the immigrant  community from reporting crimes to police, Chan said.

    Despite ICE claims that the federal agency will prioritize the  most serious offenders, immigrant rights groups are concerned that those  arrested for minor crimes could also face deportation.

     Chan, who was recently appointed to the city's police commission,  said she was speaking today as an attorney for the Asian Law Caucus and not  on behalf of the commission.

    According to ICE, of the 2.2 million fingerprint queries entered  into the system nationwide since the program began in October 2008 through  April of this year, 10,810 "level one" serious offenders were booked into ICE  custody and of those, 6,135 were deported. A total of 19,700 lesser offenders  were taken into ICE custody and 14,390 were deported, ICE said.

    In California, from July 2009 through this April, of the 483,583  queries into the system, 3,657 serious offenders were booked into ICE custody  and 2,254 deported, according to ICE. A total of 4,439 lesser offenders were  booked into ICE custody and of those, 3,027 have been deported.

    A resolution urging the city to opt out of the Secure Communities  program, sponsored by eight supervisors, is still being considered by the  Board of Supervisors.

    Attorney General Jerry Brown, whom Hennessey had petitioned to  allow San Francisco to opt out, refused the request on May 25.