OCTOBER 23, 2008
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the First District Court of Appeal for the State of California has ruled in a Judicial Watch taxpayer lawsuit that the San Francisco Police Department must comply with a state law requiring police officers to notify federal authorities when they arrest a person for various narcotics offenses whom they suspect to be an alien, legal or illegal [Fonseca v. Fong, Case No. A120206].
The appellate court reversed a lower court ruling that the SFPD was not required to obey the law because the law in question, Section 11369 of the California Health and Safety Code, invaded the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate immigration. Rejecting this argument, the appellate court remanded the case back to the trial court to determine if the SFPD’s policies comply with Section 11369. According to the appellate court ruling issued on October 22, 2008:
…Section 11369 does not require any state or local law enforcement agency to independently determine whether an arrestee is a citizen of the United States, let alone whether he or she is present in the United States lawfully or unlawfully. Nor does the statute create or authorize the creation of independent criteria by which to classify individuals based on immigration status… All of those determinations, as well as the duty to tell an arrestee who may be in this country unlawfully to either obtain legal status or leave, are left entirely to federal immigration authorities…the statute is therefore not an impermissible state regulation of immigration.
As a result of the appellate ruling, San Francisco must now end its sanctuary policy that protects aliens arrested for certain drug offenses from being reported to ICE.
Judicial Watch’s co-counsel, who initiated the case in the trial court, is California attorney David Klehm, who has over 20 years of civil litigation and judge and jury trial experience throughout Southern California.
Section 11369 of the Health and Safety Code (Section 11369) states: "[w]hen there is reason to believe that any person arrested for a violation [of any of 14 specified drug offenses] may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters." However, as Judicial Watch argued on behalf of San Francisco resident, Charles Fonseca, the SFPD prohibited police officers from complying with this law. As evidence of the SFPD’s illegal behavior, Judicial Watch quoted a statement from the San Francisco Field Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that noted a "bare minimum of cooperation" between administrators of the San Francisco County Jail and ICE.
"This landmark ruling strikes at the heart of the sanctuary movement for illegal aliens. San Francisco and other sanctuary cities are not above the law. This court ruling exposes the lie behind the argument that state and local law enforcement cannot help enforce immigration laws," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.