Sanctuary City Debate Rages On


The Sanctuary City of San Francisco takes center stage as representative for the greater national struggle between federal immigration officials and the various sanctuary cities opposing them through their detainee policies.

San Francisco’s Sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, said Thursday that city jail officials should be allowed to turn over serious criminal offenders to federal ICE agents. Meanwhile, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation seeking to bar such cooperation between parties.

Avalos’ measure would further strengthen sanctuary cities, which are known for withholding convicted illegal immigrants in custody and eventually releasing them as opposed to handing them over to federal authorities for deportation procedures.

Hennessy opposed these procedures by stating that “A blanket policy of no notification is not consistent with my responsibility to provide public safety.” Under Hennessy’s proposal, her department would still not work with immigration agents in most cases, but would make an exception for a person with a violent or serious felony conviction in the last seven years or three or more lesser felonies arising from different events in the past five years.

On the other hand, San Francisco’s Sanctuary City and Due Process for All ordinance prohibits inmates from being held hours or days past their release dates when they are flagged by immigration agents, but does not outlaw prerelease notifications, unlike other counties. Avalos’ legislation would prohibit Hennessy from making such notifications.

This issue has been closely followed since last year, when a man wanted for deportation by ICE authorities was released from San Francisco jail and was later suspected of murdering a young woman on Pier 14 on the Embarcadero.

A month earlier, the then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi issued a department memo banning all communication with immigration agents seeking to deport jailed suspects without a warrant or court order.

Opponents of Hennessy’s proposals argue her change would lead to more unfair deportations, while Avalos’ legislation would strengthen the Sanctuary City of San Francisco which so many immigration proponents cherish.