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San Francisco Affirms Sanctuary City Status

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution opposing the "scapegoating of immigrants" and rejecting a "deportation-focused" federal immigration program.

The board also rejected a proposal to rescind Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's March 2015 memo banning department employees from coordinating with federal immigration agents.

Earlier on Tuesday, Democrats in the U.S. Senate defeated a bill intended to withhold funding from cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who appeared briefly at the beginning of Tuesday's board meeting, thanked President Barack Obama and Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, both of California, for opposing the anti-sanctuary city bill.

"I firmly believe our city's sanctuary city law makes us safer and helps support immigrant communities," Lee said.

The law, passed in 2009, prohibits local law enforcement from turning over undocumented immigrants arrested for nonviolent crimes to federal agents.

It became the focus of heated national debate this summer after a previously detained immigrant with criminal past shot and killed a 32-year-old woman in San Francisco on July 1.

Earlier this year, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi drafted a memo banning sheriff's department employees from directly communicating or coordinating with federal immigration officials.

District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a resolution to rescind that policy, arguing that local police and sheriff's officers should be allowed to practice discretion in deciding when to share information with federal agents.

"I think his order flies in the face of public safety, and as a board of supervisors we should be insulted because we did not vote on this, and he did this without consulting us," Farrell said.

When Farrell first addressed the board to introduce his resolution, a large group of immigrant rights advocates stood and turned their backs to him.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen offered a motion to table the issue, saying the nonbinding resolution would send the wrong message to undocumented immigrants that are victims of crime.

Cohen said although everyone agrees Steinle's murder was a senseless tragedy, the board also should not allow one event to reshape a policy the city has had in place for 25 years.

"We can't allow hateful conservative news stations to drive how we respond to incidents in our city," Cohen said. "I'm not afraid of Fox News, and they don't influence how we make our decisions in San Francisco."

Other supervisors, including John Avalos and David Campos, relayed personal stories of immigrants who attended the Tuesday meeting.

Campos told the story of Maria Hernandez, a woman who he said was trapped in an abusive relationship for 10 years and nearly lost her leg when her boyfriend tried to run her over with a car. Hernandez never went to the police, Campos said, because she was afraid she would get deported and leave her daughters without a mom.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said the symbolic resolution to rescind the sheriff's policy would do nothing to improve public safety, adding that more gun control is needed to stem the tide of violence rippling across the nation.

"We need gun control," said Kim. "Not a single member of our community should be able to access these weapons that cause so much stress, anxiety and grief throughout our city and our country."

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener asked that the board take an up-or-down vote on the resolution to rescind the sheriff's policy instead of tabling the issue.

However, the motion to table the resolution ultimately passed in a 6-5 vote.

The board also considered a resolution to reject and oppose the federal government's Priority Enforcement Program, which seeks to have local law enforcement agencies share fingerprint data on arrestees with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to "determine whether the individual is a priority for removal."

Campos called the resolution particularly important because other major cities, including New York and Chicago, are looking to see how San Francisco responds to the new immigration program, which was first announced in a November 2014 memo by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

"This will send a very strong message to the rest of the country that we're not going to have local law enforcement become arms of immigration," Campos said.

Board of Supervisors chair London Breed offered an amendment to the resolution, clarifying that local officials should still abide by the public-safety exceptions spelled out in San Francisco's sanctuary city and "Due Process for All" ordinances.

"There are exceptions designed to protect public safety in the sanctuary city law," Breed said. "My amendment simply says the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calls upon the sheriff not to participate in the priority enforcement program except as allowed in administrate codes."

The board unanimously approved the resolution opposing the federal government's program and the amendments offered by Breed.


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