The Low Down on San Francisco’s Sanctuary City
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This year, the president indicated a willingness to cut funding to sanctuary cities to further his anti-immigrant policies. As recently as January 26, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) visited Good Samaritan Family Resource Center during preschool hours to determine the whereabouts of a specific undocumented individual. These events have generated renewed interest in what it means for San Francisco to be a Sanctuary City.
Since 1989, San Francisco has been a sanctuary city under the City and County of Refuge Ordinance. While all sanctuary cities vary, San Francisco’s sanctuary law limits how much local police may cooperate with requests from federal authorities to hold immigrants in detention. It prohibits City employees from using City funds or resources to assist ICE in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, unless required by federal or state law. San Francisco’s Due Process for All Ordinance also limits when City law enforcement can provide information about release status or personal information of any individual to ICE, except in limited circumstances. They may not detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer, also known as “ICE holds.”
In January, the president signed an Executive Order stating that cities that do not comply with federal ICE agents are not eligible for federal grants. For agencies such as IFR providing critical mental health services and other services for a largely immigrant population, this is mind-boggling. Questioning the constitutionality of such an action, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit challenging the Executive Order, making San Francisco the first city to fight the president’s action. In addition, Mayor Lee launched the Equity and Immigrant Services Campaign to support the immigrant community’s legal needs, and promote partnerships with community groups. Under consideration at the state level, SB-6 provides support for legal representation for individuals in removal proceedings, and SB-54 prohibits the use of any state resources to assist ICE, making California a sanctuary state.
Mayor Lee has announced that all San Franciscans, including immigrants, will have continued access to services in their communities. Toward this end, the City is developing a toolkit with information and resources for immigrants, and an Immigration Emergency Protocol to guide city departments. In addition, the Department of Public Health has developed and shared communication tools for patients, clients and staff reassuring that—You’re Safe Here!—that you can continue receiving care here, and that San Francisco will always be a sanctuary city.
The Sanctuary City Ordinance means local community-based organizations are not required to cooperate with ICE officers. If an ICE officer attempts to gain entry to your agency, you are allowed to deny them entry. ICE officers require consent to search and enter a premise; consequently, telling an ICE officer that they are not allowed in your premise is lawful.
If ICE officers state that they have a warrant to search your premises, the warrant should have a specific person’s name on it. However, even then, San Francisco-based organizations are not legally required to give ICE access to your premises or to any information about the person named on the warrant. When a warrant is present, you can ask the ICE officers to leave the document outside your door and to leave.
If an ICE officer possesses a valid search warrant, you must allow them entry. Search warrants are rare and should not be confused by an ICE-issued arrest warrant. Valid search warrants must have a date, time, address, specifics of what and where they can search, and must be signed by a judge. If any of these items are incorrect or missing, the warrant is invalid and should be ignored.
If the search warrant is valid, allow ICE to enter the premises, follow the agent and advise program participants of their rights to remain silent, not sign anything, ask for an attorney, and to walk away if they are not being detained.
The Sanctuary City Ordinance exists for times such as these. We encourage all to stay informed. There are several organizations throughout the City that focus on bringing services to the immigrant community in San Francisco. Some of them include:
• San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network- a comprehensive list of resources can be found here.
• San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative- free, high quality legal services on behalf of children and families can be found here.
This article includes information from: Post-Election Sanctuary City power point presentation by Sneha Patil, MPH Senior Health Program Planner, Office of Policy and Planning, SFDPH, and excerpts from policies developed by Dolores Street Community Services on How to respond to Immigration Custom Enforcement Officers at our office.