So You *Can* Opt Out of Secure Communities Fingerprinting Program. Will S.F. Be Allowed?

Categories: Immigration
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Local officials are awaiting a response to San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey's letter yesterday, which once again asked federal immigration officials to allow San Francisco to opt out of the fingerprint ID program that targets illegal immigrants booked into jail.

The request comes after a new document released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) outlines an opt-out process -- even though both ICE officials and Attorney General Jerry Brown previously told Hennessey there was no way to opt out. The program is known as Secure Communities, or S-Comm for short.

"It will be telling how [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] reacts," said Angela Chan, a police commissioner and staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, in a teleconference today. "Will they come up with a list of excuses to not follow this policy they themselves laid out?"

"Sheriff Hennessey has clearly voiced our concerns loud and clear, the Board of Supervisors have voiced their concerns loud and clear, the request to opt out has been written now several times. Its ICE's turn to allow San Francisco to opt out and follow the policy that they're putting out."

Before the implementation of the S-Comm program in June, Hennessey had argued that the program conflicts with the local sanctuary city ordinance, which mandates that only people booked on felonies and suspected of being in the country illegally are reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under S-Comm, the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail or whose fingerprints are taken by police are checked against ICE's database.

Hennessey says that S-Comm Deputy Director Marc Rapp told him in a phone conversation that there was no way San Francisco could get out of participating in the program. ICE signs memorandum of understanding to implement the program at the state level, not with local jurisdictions.     

But page six of a newly released document from ICE states:

"If a jurisdiction does not wish to activate on its scheduled date in the Secure Communities deployment plan, it must formally notify its state identification bureau and ICE in writing (mail letter or facsimile). Upon receipt of the information, ICE will request a meeting with federal partners, the jurisdiction, and the state to discuss any issues and come to a resolution, which may include adjusting the jurisdiction's activation date or removing the jurisdiciton form the employment plan."

Hennessey said today that he did both of those things -- but there was no meeting to come to a resolution.

Hennessey had also asked Brown if San Francisco could get out of the program before it began in San Francisco -- a request the gubernatorial candidate denied. But Chan says she, along with local immigration organizations and two city supervisors, met with an aide from Brown's office three weeks ago. She says the staffer told them the AG "will not stand in the way if localities find a way to opt out." Chan says she's now sent Brown's office an "angry e-mail" asking for clarification in light of the newly disclosed opt-out process.

 In light of the new information, San Mateo and Santa Clara county officials have also made written requests to opt out of the program.

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