Saturday, May 7, 2011

San Francisco to defy Secure Communities immigration program

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey will start releasing low-level illegal-immigrant criminals from jail even if federal officials notified through a controversial fingerprint identification program request that they be held for a deportation hearing.

The new policy, set to begin June 1, is meant to uphold San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance, which prohibits local officials from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement with enforcing immigration laws unless it involves a felony.

“I’m trying to enforce San Francisco’s city of refuge law,” Hennessey said. “The city of refuge law says we are not supposed to comply with federal officials except with felonies. I’m just doing our best to enforce local law. That’s my job.”

Federal officials have been able to circumvent sanctuary city policies throughout the country through a program called Secure Communities. That program allows ICE to monitor fingerprint data collected during the booking process and put holds, known as “detainers,” on people they believe to be illegal immigrants.

Since the program took effect in June 2010 until February, 111 people identified through the Secure Communities were deported after it was found they committed no crime at all except for being in the country illegally, according to the most recent ICE data. Federal officials deported 85 people who committed the lowest two levels of crimes, such as shoplifting, drinking in public and drug possession, while45 people who had committed felonies had been deported.

As it is now, sheriff’s deputies holds low-level criminals until ICE picks them up. Once the new policy takes effect, however, sheriff’s deputies will release them from jail with a citation just as they would a U.S. citizen, even with an ICE detainer.

The move is generating praise from San Francisco’s progressive circles while groups opposed to sanctuary cities are howling. “It’s an astonishing abuse of his office,” said Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, a Washington D.C.-based legal advocacy group that is currently suing The City over a similar immigrant issue. “I guarantee you that someone who is released by him as a result of his lawlessness will go on to commit a more serious crime,” Fitton said. “People are going to get hurt, or worse, and it will be on him.”

Harmeet Dhillon, chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party, slammed The City’s sanctuary policy as out of date and she said Hennessey was attempting to make the federal government’s job to quell illegal immigration more difficult. “I am very disappointed to hear the sheriff is basically substituting his discretion for a court of law to determine whether these people are safe enough to release into our communities,” Dhillon said.

Secure Communities has come under increasing fire across the state and country as non criminals continue to be swept up through the program. Hennessey has attempted to opt out of the program since its inception, but ICE has said only states can opt out of the program.

This week, Illinois announced that it will terminate its Secure Communities agreement, and last week an Assemblyman Tom Ammiano bill that would require the attorney general to allow California counties to opt out of the program passed out of a committee.

ICE has not yet commented on Hennessey’s plan.


Most asylum seekers to Australia dump their passports

Where that can reasonably be shown, they should be held until they can be repatriated -- JR

MORE than 80 per cent of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat throw away their passports before landing, presenting a security nightmare for ASIO and immigration authorities.

New figures obtained from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship revealed that 5213 people arriving illegally between 2008 and 2010 had first flown to Indonesia before boarding a boat to Australia. But only 21 of those people still had passports with them by the time they were intercepted in Australian waters.

And less than a quarter of them had any documentation at all, raising the danger that people who posed a security risk could slip through the net.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday said no one currently in the system being assessed had failed ASIO checks. But Opposition spokesman for Immigration Scott Morrison said it was impossible to know whether these people were who they claimed to be when they arrived without any identification.

"To travel by air you must have documentation. The decision to discard documentation is an act of defiance and non-co-operation with Australian authorities," he said.

"The absence of documentation also leads to significant delays in processing and security assessment that detainees now complain about.

"The practice of discarding documentation is routine among asylum seekers using people smugglers and is designed to frustrate Australian authorities trying to determine whether a person has a legitimate asylum claim. "They are clearly counting on being given the benefit of the doubt."


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