Sup. John Avalos’ Due Process for All ordinance, legislation barring San Francisco law enforcement agencies from honoring detainer requests issued by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the federal Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, faced obstacles at the Sept. 17 Board of Supervisors meeting and was ultimately continued to the following week.
The legislation initially had enough support for a veto-proof supermajority, but opposition has surfaced to prevent the legislation from winning approval as written.
In a recent editorial, Police Chief Greg Suhr called for it to be scaled back. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association came out against it and Mayor Ed Lee threatened to veto the legislation in its current form.
At issue was whether to amend the legislation by including "carve-outs" — exceptions requiring law enforcement to honor ICE requests in cases where offenders are suspected of serious violent crimes, child molestation or human trafficking.
District 6 Sup. Jane Kim, an initial supporter of Avalos’ Due Process for All Ordinance, proposed an amendment that would grant the Sheriff discretion to honor ICE detainer requests in cases where the offender had been convicted of one of the aforementioned crimes in the past seven years.
Kim characterized her amendment as "thoughtful and limited," but the proposal met with resistance from Avalos and Sup. David Campos. "I am afraid that in the process of trying to do the right thing, we're going to end up with unintended consequences," Campos said.
Board President David Chiu indicated that he agreed with including carve-outs in narrow circumstances.
Under S-Comm, if an arrestee shows up in a shared database as an undocumented immigrant, ICE can ask the arresting local law enforcement agency to detain the person in question, even after they would be otherwise eligible for release. Detainer requests, which police have no legal obligation to comply with, are routinely issued without warrants or a requirement to show probable cause.
Avalos’ legislation seeks to extend due process to all San Franciscans by making it illegal for local law enforcement to comply with such requests. In San Francisco, ICE detainer requests issued under S-Comm have resulted in at least 784 deportations since 2010.
The Board Chamber at City Hall was filled to capacity with supporters of Avalos' legislation before the hearing even began. The line to get into the main chamber stretched all the way down the hallway to the first overflow room, which had standing room only just five minutes after the meeting began. When Avalos initially stood to speak, the chamber resonated with chants of "Si se puede! Si se puede!"
Cinthya Muñoz, Immigrant Rights Organizer with Causa Justa, remained hopeful despite the setbacks. "We're excited that we were able to push back on the amendments being proposed because of how they would impact the vast majority of our communities," she said. "And we're still hopeful that we'll be able to get our Due Process for All policy passed next week."
Up until recently, Lee lacked veto power due to the ordinance's supermajority approval. But when Avalos lost his supermajority support due to what he called "political pressure," Lee regained that power. "Whether it's relationships directly with the police chief, the mayor, the Police Officers Association," Avalos told the Guardian, "[the pressure] kind of withered eight sponsor support for not having carve-outs."
Not to be deterred, however, are those groups and individuals fighting for Due Process for All. Following the continuation announcement, the throngs of supporters filed out of the main chamber and down into the lobby of City Hall, where they gathered and prepared for another hearing, same time, same place.
"It's actually really great because I think it gives us a bigger chance for the supervisors to hear from community members," Muñoz said. "That what community wants is Due Process for All, everybody to be treated equally and to not make a differentiation between who's worth it in our communities."