City still seeking advice on new sanctuary law 

After failed attempts to block potential prosecution of city workers over San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has gone straight to Washington, D.C., for help.

In his second attempt to shield city workers, Herrera recently fired off a letter to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, asking it to “issue guidance” to Northern California U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello about The City’s sanctuary policy.

Last year, Russoniello convened a criminal grand jury to investigate whether San Francisco’s juvenile probation officers violated federal law by harboring and transporting undocumented youths after they were arrested on suspicion of felonies.

In November, Herrera sent a letter to Russoniello asking him for assurance that city workers would not be prosecuted, especially since The City had changed its policies and the workers were reporting undocumented youths to federal authorities upon being arrested. Russoniello said he would make no promises.

But Herrera and other city officials are looking past the pending departure of Russoniello. President Barack Obama last month nominated Melinda Haag, a San Francisco attorney and former federal prosecutor, to become U.S. attorney for Northern California.

“Even if we don’t get a response, when there is a new U.S. attorney, hopefully this will be on the front burner,” said Matt Dorsey, Herrera’s spokesman.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Officer did not return phone calls for comment, and Russoniello’s office would not confirm or deny there is an investigation.

In July 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom implemented a change to the sanctuary law. The new guidelines call for probation officers to report undocumented youths who had been arrested on suspicion of a felony to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In November, supervisors amended that ordinance so probation officers could only report undocumented youths when they had been convicted of a felony.

However, the new policy has yet to be implemented, in part because of the ongoing federal criminal investigation.

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