San Francisco’s 1989 Sanctuary Ordinance is intended to prohibit City employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant. It was adopted to allow undocumented residents full access to city services. The ordinance, here and in many other cities, developed out of a 1980s grass-roots movement where churches offered sanctuary for Latin American refugees fleeing US-sponsored dictatorships or wars against popular movements. Now, 130 US cities and towns are official places of refuge.
Enforcement of the San Francisco Sanctuary Ordinance has always been a struggle, with frequent questions of whether police or sheriffs were informing immigration authorities about suspected undocumented immigrants in their custody. More recently, however, the Ordinance itself has come under attack, with almost daily SF Chronicle articles shouting that the Sanctuary Ordinance is shielding youthful and adult criminals, and a racist Minutemen rally on City Hall steps demanding repeal of the Ordinance. In response, Mayor Gavin Newsom has demanded an overhaul of the Ordinance, so undocumented youths charged with felonies are turned over to ICE. He is also backpedeling on an ordinance he supported giving municipal ID cards to those who cannot get drivers licenses.
Meanwhile, the needs of all youth, citizen and immigrant alike, for jobs, housing, education, and medical or mental care are not even discussed. Nor is it discussed that all youthful offenders, citizen and immigrant alike, should be treated differently from adult offenders. Many of the immigrant youth swept up by SF police and turned over to ICE are refugees from life-threatening poverty and gang wars in Latin America and Caribbean islands, the aftermath of free trade agreements.
There has been a nationwide reign of terror on immigrants, with (1) ICE raids and sweeps arresting hundreds at a time, (2) deportations separating thousands of family members, (3) months-long detentions of entire families, (3) passage of state and local laws outlawing hiring, providing rental housing, or giving medical care to undocumented immigrants, (4) development of Klan-like mobs attacking Day Labor Centers and beating immigrants, encouraged by politicians and egged on by major media.
Government and its business partners cannot solve "immigration reform" because they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to intensify the exploitation of immigrant labor as "guest workers", but to accomplish this, they need the terror aspects of laws outlawing immigrants. Unable to resolve this problem by top-down legislation, they are resorting to the bottom-up terror of ICE raids and other sweeps, which accomplish both goals.
Many of these abuses are happening in San Francisco and the Bay Area, despite strenuous work of immigrants and their supporters. Some examples: (1) Sweeps through Richmond immigrant residential areas, (2) Emeryville hotel workers threatened with deportation for seeking minimum wage, (3) ICE raids of El Balazo restaurants, (4) Police checkpoints in Richmond and Redwood City where vehicles of unlicensed drivers, largely undocumented immigrants, are seized, (5) vicious SF Chronicle articles equating immigrant youth with drug dealers and immigrant adults with murderers, (6) A Gang Injunction Program and police Gang Task Force targeting black, latin, and immigrant youth, (7) Ongoing gentrification pushing black, latin, and immigrant families from their homes, (8) The City’s providing City Hall Steps and police protection to the racist and xenophobic Minutemen, and (9) the City’s continuing prosecution of an anti-Minutemen protester on trumped-up charges.
Come hear Barbara Lopez, Jose Luis Pavon, and Maria Poblet speak on the changing situation for immigrants and youth, and ways we can respond. Barbara Lopez works with Tenderloin Housing Clinic and co-founded La Voz Latina. She is particularly active advocating for immigrant tenants and immigrant children the SF school system, and is running for the School Board. She is also an LGBT activist and opposes the military recruiting and “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies of the JROTC program in SF schools. Jose Luis Pavon is Program Director for HOMEY, a program for Mission District youth, and a leader in the Anti-Gang Injunction Coalition. Maria Poblet works for St. Peters Housing Committee, fighting gentrification and displacement of immigrant and working families in the Mission. She helped to write the SF Municipal ID Ordinance, to revise SF city department protocols on compliance with the Sanctuary Ordinance, and is a founder of the Deporten a la Migra (Deport the Immigration Authorities) Coalition. All are committed fighters for immigrants, youth, and workers’ rights.
Read the SF Immigrant Rights Defense Committee Platform, what needs to change in SF
Youth Commission passes resolution to restore Sanctuary City protections for immigrant youth
Official San Francisco City Webpage on the Sanctuary Ordinance
Immigrant Rights Commission says juvenile immigrant offenders need services, not deportation
Beyond Chron: Police and Feds Set Tone For SF Chronicle Attack (on) the Sanctuary Ordinance
Beyond Chron: Immigrants (and allies) Denounce Press Hysteria, Rally for Youth and Families
SF Chron: City gives 14 yr old Honduran drug suspect to ICE despite Juvenile Court order
SF Bay Guardian: Public Safety Adrift, will Newsom and his top deputies continue to let politics guide policy?
"No Sanctuary from Feds in SF," Gray Panthers article, March 2007
SF Gray Panthers Resolution on Immigration
David Bacon on what's wrong with the proposed "guest worker" program
Historic San Francisco demonstrations for Immigrant Rights in April and May, 2006
Gray Panthers webpage on San Francisco Gang Injunctions