San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced yesterday (May 29) that the county jail would stop responding to unconstitutional ICE hold requests altogether. His announcement comes in the wake of a major federal court decision that has spurred more than 70 counties in several states to completely end the unconstitutional practice of holding immigrants in jail for extra time solely for deportation purposes.
The new policy corrects a deficiency in the city’s landmark “Due Process for All ordinance,” upholding basic constitutional protections for all San Franciscans and protecting the city from significant liability.
In California, the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Sacramento, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Cruz, and Monterey, among others, have already adopted parallel practices.
The San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee, is a coalition of leading immigrant and civil rights groups which led efforts to pass the city’s Due Process for All ordinance, issued the following comments in response to this development:
“We warmly welcome today’s announcement, which strengthens a vital principle at the core of our justice system: that no human being should be detained without a valid reason. We believe that all people are created equal and should be treated fairly no matter where they were born.
Last year, San Francisco took a major step toward pushing back on the President’s cruel deportation policies by enacting the Due Process for All ordinance, which significantly limited cruel and costly immigration holds. But a compromise amendment still allowed these unconstitutional detentions in the local jail in some circumstances, putting at risk the cherished rights that keep us all safe and free. Now, that narrow breach of due process rights has been closed. We celebrate a policy that upholds our values of rehabilitation, community, and equality under the law.”
Supervisor John Avalos, author of the Due Process for All ordinance, added:
“I’m glad to see San Francisco join the emerging national consensus on ICE holds that the Due Process Ordinance help push forward. Each and every time local jails hold an immigrant community member without probable cause, it’s a constitutional concern and a lawsuit waiting to happen. This new policy will further strengthen confidence between immigrant community members and local law enforcement while protecting the basic civil rights of all San Franciscans.”
Driving the changes in San Francisco and a recent federal court decision, Maria Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County,which found ICE “hold” requests unconstitutional and ordered county officials to pay money damages to a woman held in jail for extra time on a hold.
San Francisco has been a national leader in fighting back against the “Secure Communities” deportation program for four years. In July 2013, eight members of the Board of Supervisors introduced the “Due Process for All” ordinance, legislation that would have prohibited prolonged detentions in response to all ICE “holds” in the City if it had been passed without amendments.
The legislation in its original form enjoyed broad support from diverse community based organizations and community leaders, including District Attorney George Gascon and policymakers, who agreed with advocates that responses to any ICE hold requests posed constitutional due process concerns and should be completely eliminated.
However, due to pressure from the Mayor’s Office, the Board of Supervisors eventually passed a compromise bill, permitting, but not requiring, the County Sheriff to comply with unconstitutional ICE detainers in certain circumstances. SFIRDC and its allies celebrated the unanimous passage of the Due Process for All Ordinance, but also questioned the need for an exception, maintaining that every single hold was a constitutional crisis.
SFIRDC includes organizations such as Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Community United Against Violence, Causa Justa::Just Cause, CARECEN-SF, California Immigrant Policy Center, Dolores St. Community Services, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, SFOP/PIA and the Department of Public Policy of the San Francisco Archdiocese