For three years, a coalition of San Francisco immigrant-rights advocates has fought to end the detaining of those arrested at the request of federal immigration officials, and on Thursday, it celebrated a victory.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced he would no longer honor what are known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds. The announcement is one of several in recent weeks by other sheriffs such as in Alameda and Contra Costa counties following an Oregon court case that found the practice violated an inmate's constitutional rights.
Immigration holds are part of a controversial federal program called Secure Communities. Under the process, a person can be held up to 48 hours to allow the federal agency time to pick up the detained person for possible deportation.
In 2013, Mirkarimi limited the hold on ICE detainers to only those arrested or convicted for violent felonies. In 2012, 542 were detained and handed over to the immigration agency. Last year, that number shrank to 207, and this year, there have been only six, according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Kathy Gorwood.
Now, only in cases where there is a judicial determination or a warrant of arrest would a person be held for ICE, Mirkarimi said.
"Public safety is not advanced and could be hindered when immigrant communities fear the repercussions of cooperating with law enforcement," Mirkarimi said.
Last year, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation, known as the Due Process Ordinance, that would have eliminated by city law all ICE holds. But due to opposition from the mayor and police chief, it was amended to still allow detainers in certain cases.
"I'm glad to see San Francisco join the emerging national consensus on ICE holds that the Due Process Ordinance helped push forward," Avalos said in a statement. "Each and every time local jails hold an immigrant community member without probable cause, it's a constitutional concern and a lawsuit waiting to happen."