'Secure Communities' Program Nails 29 Illegal Immigrants In S.F. Jail

Categories: Immigration
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After all, now we have finger prints...
ICE touts success stories of new program -- but San Francisco sheriff's department would have reported serious "criminal aliens" anyways under old sanctuary city policy

In the first nine days after the Department of Homeland Security launched its Secure Communities program In San Francisco -- which checks fingerprints of anyone booked into custody in the city against the DHS's database -- immigration officials have identified 29 "criminal aliens" in the city jail. (A criminal alien is any non-citizen or national who has committed a crime other than being here illegally.)

Of those, 22 have prior felony convictions, and 15 have previously been deported from the United States. SF Weekly requested the statistics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thursday.

The Secure Communities program started here on June 8. Sheriff Mike Hennessey had asked State Attorney General Jerry Brown for permission to opt out of the program, arguing it was a violation of San Francisco's sanctuary city ordinance. Brown told him tough luck

Of the 29 "criminal aliens" identified in the first days of implementation, eight have previously been convicted of "Level 1" offenses, such as homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security, according to the ICE.

An ICE press release played up four cases of nabbing hardened criminals as Secure Communities success stories. Yet Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst says these four people would have been reported to ICE anyways under the old sanctuary city policy -- since they all were either booked on felonies or had prior felony convictions. The sheriff's department is continuing to alert ICE of those accused criminals as it did before the implementation of Secure Communities, she says.

The synopses of those four people:
  • On June 11, the sheriff's office booked a man into custody for selling pot. Checking his fingerprints "revealed that the individual was illegally in the United States and has used at least 13 aliases. His extensive criminals history includes 12 convictions for which he was sentenced to a total of 22 years for theft, drug possession and distribution, and escaping from custody," according to the release.
  • Also on June 11, the sheriff booked a man for two counts of selling a controlled substance, among other offenses. Checking his fingerprints revealed "a history of major drug crimes and multiple immigration violations, including five prior removals from the United States."
  • On June 14, the sheriff department booked a man for grand theft, and the check turned up that the man was here illegally and had previously been deported. "The individual has used at least six aliases and has been convicted of corporal injury of a spouse and has multiple drug-related convictions."
  • On June 9, the sheriff's department booked a man for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. The fingerprint check showed that he was in the country illegally and had been been deported before. The man "has used at least four aliases and has multiple drug-related convictions."
ICE plans to deport all four as soon as their criminal proceedings are completed.

Secure Communities only detects people who have a fingerprint on record with ICE. In addition to the 29 detected this way in those nine days, there were 19 others booked into jail who received an ICE hold. ICE had found out about them by other means, including jail interviews or the sheriff's department reporting them, says ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Sheriff's Department implemented the Secure Communities program. Instead, the DHS launched Secure Communities in San Francisco as part of the national roll-out of the program, and the Sheriff's Department had no way of opting out of the process.   

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