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San Francisco supervisors vote to overturn policy on illegal immigrants

Law enforcement would be barred from handing juvenile illegal immigrants to U.S. officials unless they had been convicted of a felony. A spokesman says Mayor Gavin Newsom will veto the change.

October 21, 2009|Maria L. La Ganga

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to bar law enforcement officials from handing juvenile illegal immigrants over to the federal government unless they have been convicted of a felony.

Twenty years ago, San Francisco enacted a "sanctuary city" ordinance requiring, in part, that local agencies not consider immigration status when dealing with young offenders.

But Mayor Gavin Newsom changed the policy in the summer of 2008, after published reports revealed that the ordinance was protecting young undocumented offenders from deportation. Afterward, all juvenile illegal immigrants charged with felonies were referred to federal officials.

The June 2008 shooting deaths of Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons, Matthew, 16, and Michael, 20, created the greatest national uproar. Edwin Ramos, an undocumented Salvadoran who was 21 at the time of the shootings, was charged in the crimes. He had been arrested on felony charges as a youth but was never handed over to immigration officials.

"The board did the wrong thing," said mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard. "The mayor supports our sanctuary city policy, but it was never intended to be used as a shield for criminal behavior."

The new policy will go back to supervisors Tuesday for a second reading. If it goes to Newsom in its current form, Ballard said, the mayor will veto it. But Supervisor David Campos said the board has the votes to override a veto.

"I think it's a proud day for San Francisco," he said. The vote "sends the message that we in San Francisco still believe in the Constitution and the basic principle of due process, that in this country you're innocent until proven guilty."


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