Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hundreds of adult illegals also got sanctuary (San Francisco Chronicle)

Hundreds of adult illegals also got sanctuary

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It turns out that San Francisco wasn't shielding just juvenile illegal immigrants from deportation if they committed crimes - City Hall officials have discovered that there are 372 convicted adult felons on probation in the city who weren't reported to the feds.

The findings were reported in an audit overseen by the city's incoming probation chief, Patrick Boyd, after Mayor Gavin Newsom asked for a review of how San Francisco's sanctuary law was being implemented in the wake of a series of Chronicle stories describing missteps in the handling of juvenile felony offenders.

City officials repeatedly claimed that adult illegal immigrant felons were being turned over to federal officials - unlike juveniles, who for years were protected under what authorities now concede was a misinterpretation of the sanctuary law.

Officers with the city Probation Department are supposed to include defendants' immigration status in their pre-sentencing reports to judges. But "that policy wasn't being followed," at least not by everybody, Boyd said.

And apparently, no one was checking.

"My talks with staff indicate that there was some real confusion about how the sanctuary law was to be implemented, and that the department hadn't done a good job of making it clear what the expectation was," said Boyd, who was appointed by the San Francisco courts in late July to head the department.

Last month, probation officers began spending nights and weekends going over the files of 6,500 felons who are on probation in the city.

About 700 were found to be noncitizens, and 1,200 more had a blank space next to the immigration status question.

Further review found that 372 were probably in the country illegally or had some type of problem with their immigration status.

The names have since been sent to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Newsom has been in scramble mode on illegal immigrant offenders ever since The Chronicle reported in June that the city was flying underage crack dealers to their homelands rather than handing them over for formal deportation, in possible violation of federal law.

The capper came when the paper reported that Edwin Ramos, an alleged illegal immigrant suspected of killing a father and his two sons on an Excelsior District street, had a juvenile record for assault and robbery but was never turned over to the feds.

With the city taking a hammering on the national stage, Newsom ordered up the review of adult felons.

"We saw it as a public safety issue, and took steps to rectify it as soon as we could," Boyd said.

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said there had always been "a strong policy in place" - the problem was that it wasn't being "uniformly followed."

"Now, after the review, it will be," Ballard said.

Hopefully, before another bad headline hits the newsstands.

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