May 26, 2010
Sheriff Fears Program Will Lead To Deportations
A California sheriff wants to opt out of a national program that checks the immigration status of all arrestees because it would eradicate the area’s sanctuary law and put too many people at risk of deportation.
While this open support for criminals from a top law enforcement official may sound outrageous, its par for the course in San Francisco, the famously liberal city by the bay that has long offered illegal immigrants sanctuary, official government identification cards and all sorts of taxpayer-financed public benefits.
Now the area’s sheriff, who operates the county jails, wants to assure that illegal aliens are protected from deportation when they get arrested for breaking local laws. San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey wants California’s Attorney General to let his agency keep the fingerprints of arrested people away from federal immigration authorities.
Under a federal program called Secure Communities, all California county jails must check the fingerprints of arrestees against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement database to track whether the person is in the country illegally. The idea is to deport dangerous criminals, many of whom have fallen through the cracks over the years. So far 169 counties nationwide are participating in Secure Communities.
But the sheriff and San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors are deeply worried that the program would gut the city’s sanctuary law and put many more people at risk of deportation. After all, the city is famous for protecting even the most violent of criminals from deportation, including those who have been convicted of atrocious felonies. A few years ago a Salvadoran gang member with two felony convictions murdered a father and his two sons because he never got turned over to federal authorities for removal.
Fortunately, California’s Attorney General doesn’t share the sheriff’s concern and this week denied his exemption request. In a letter to Hennessey, Attorney General Jerry Brown says that the Secure Communities program “serves both public safety and the interests of justice” because it “advances an important law enforcement function by identifying those individuals who are in the country illegally and who have a history of serious crimes or who have previously been deported.”