It was just a couple of quarters -- 46 cents to be exact -- but a San Francisco family says they're being torn apart over spare change.
Days before the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee holds a hearing about Juvenile Probation Department's failure to implement the new due process policy towards immigrant youth, a San Francisco family facing deportation on Friday shared their story with the press.
The Washingtons' nightmare began when their 13-year-old boy was reported by juvenile probation to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a minor bullying incident where the youth took the 46 cents from another youth and then gave it back. The boy was arrested and then reported to ICE.
Despite the family's eligibility for legal permanent-resident status, ICE ordered the mother and her 13-year-old son deported to Australia the same day she picked the boy up from juvenile detention. The mother's other child, a 5-year-old, also will be returning to Australia.
The boys' stepfather, a U.S. citizen, says he's heartbroken over the destruction of his family. "My stepson is very sorry for what he did it," said Mr. Washington. "But his behavior merits an after-school detention, not a life-altering deportation for my wife and two young stepsons. This is exceedingly cruel and unusual punishment."
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has repeatedly tried to pass "sanctuary" laws which would prevent the reporting of undocumented juveniles to ICE unless they were convicted of a felony. Mayor Gavin Newsom has fought these efforts, arguing that local police would be in violation of federal laws if they shielded undocumented children.
Background on Immigrant Youth Policy: In July 2008, Mayor Newsom implemented a policy requiring probation officers to report all suspected undocumented youth for deportation right after arrest.
"We have to cooperate with federal authorities when felony arrests are made...it's the federal immigration authorities who make decisions about deportation, etc., not the City," according to Tony Winnicker, spokesperson for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
In November 2009, a broad-based campaign led by hundreds of members of San Francisco's immigrant community resulted in the passage of a new policy that restores due process to immigrant youth. The new policy gives youth an opportunity to have a hearing and requires a finding that the youth committed a felony before any referral to ICE.