San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey has announced that he will release illegal immigrants who are believed to have committed low-level crimes instead of jailing them and turning them over to federal authorities.
Hennessey declared his distaste for the Secure Communities program run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle last month. Local law enforcement, which use the Secure Communities program, send the fingerprints of arrested criminal suspects to ICE to check them against federal immigration databases. A match can result in commencement of removal proceedings.
Critics have long argued that Secure Communities actually undermines public safety, and that immigrants will stop reporting crimes they see because they are afraid of deportation.
“ICE’s Secure Communities program puts local police in a bind. How can local police provide a ‘secure community’ if various members of that community will not report crimes nor offer to testify out of fear of federal action against the victims or witnesses? Some local police see their hard work in building community trust evaporate,” says Dallas immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C.
Hennessey stated that any illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes – such as shoplifting or public drunkenness – will not be held in jail, even if federal immigration agents request their detainment. He said that he would still report suspected felons to ICE, as he has been for years.
“Reports of persons removed for non-criminal conduct, such as visa overstays, who were stopped for minor traffic infractions are not what ICE had in mind in portraying the Secure Communities program as designed to remove dangerous criminal aliens from our streets,” Rabinowitz says.
“San Francisco has always been a city of immigrants,” Hennessey said. “We are proud of our diversity. We value the contributions of immigrants to our community. Law enforcement and other civic leaders work hard to serve all of our residents in an effort to promote the health and safety of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s controversial Secure Communities program violates this hard-earned trust with immigrant residents.”
Under federal law, other law enforcement officers can still choose to report immigration status to ICE. Several have already declared their intent to do so.
To learn more about Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C., call 1.972.233.6200 or visit http://www.rabinowitzrabinowitz.com.