DECEMBER 09, 2015
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a taxpayer lawsuit in San Francisco County, California Superior Court to end a March 2015 expansion of San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance that prohibits San Francisco Sheriff’s Department personnel from exchanging information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about the citizenship or immigration status of inmates in the Sheriff Department’s custody. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of San Francisco taxpayer Cynthia Cerletti (Cynthia Cerletti v. Ross Mirkarimi (No. CGC -15-549250)).
On March 13, 2015, current San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi put in place a new policy directive, entitled “Immigration & Customs Enforcement Procedures (ICE) Contact and Communications,” mandating that “absent a court issued warrant, a signed court order, or other legal requirement authorizing ICE access . . . SFSD staff shall not provide the following information or access to ICE representatives: Citizenship/immigration status of any inmate.”
Mirkarimi’s new policy directive, which goes even further than San Francisco’s infamous sanctuary ordinance, runs directly contrary to federal law, which states, “[A] Federal, State, or local government entity or officials may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from [ICE] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” (8 U.S.C. § 1373).
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department receives over $200 million in taxpayer support annually to fund its operations, a portion of which is being spent to carry out the new policy directive and train personnel on its requirements. As California grants its taxpayers the right to sue government officials to prevent expenditures of taxpayer funds on unlawful activities, Judicial Watch filed suit against Mirkarimi, in his official capacity, on behalf of Cerletti. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department from expending any taxpayer funds on the policy directive and a judgment declaring the policy directive to be illegal.
Sheriff-Elect Vicki Hennessy, who defeated Mirkarimi in a November 3, 2015 election, has promised changes to Mirkarimi’s policy directive. Judicial Watch’s lawsuit seeks to ensure that Hennessy makes good on her promise when she takes office.
San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance gained national attention on July 1, 2015, when Kathryn Steinle was gunned down at one the city’s most popular tourist spots, allegedly by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal alien who had been released from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department despite a request from ICE that he be detained for possible deportation. The Sheriff’s Department not only ignored ICE’s detainer request, but also failed to notify ICE when it released Lopez-Sanchez on April 15, 2015, little more than a month after Mirkarimi issued the new policy directive.
“Sheriff Mirkarimi’s expansion of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy is dangerous and violates federal law. It needs to end,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We encourage Sheriff-Elect Hennessy to repeal Sheriff Mirkarimi’s policy directive in its entirety.”
As the result of earlier Judicial Watch litigation, the San Francisco Police Department was required in 2011 to comply with a California law requiring federal officials be notified whenever an alien is arrested on certain drug offenses. Judicial Watch is separately investigating whether the release of Steinle’s alleged killer violated this court order.
Robert Patrick Sticht, a Los Angeles-based attorney, is serving as lead counsel in the Cerletti litigation.