San Francisco, liberal city par excellence, has always prided itself in being a sanctuary for less fortunate people. To see the long lines at Saint Anthony’s Soup Kitchen, you’d be forgiven for being skeptical, but vulnerable members of society have felt, historically, safer here than in most places in the United States.
Then, a couple of years ago, something happened: Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to run for governor. As part of his strategy to woo the conservative electorate, he went the easy route: immigration crackdown. He and his mates at City Hall passed a piece of legislation that allows police to report undocumented kids upon booking.
Translation: as soon as the kid is arrested, before an investigation is conducted, long before a trial happens, police have the power to report him or her to immigration services and start a deportation procedure. In practical terms, you may well be a straight-A undocumented student at Mission High. But if you happen to be standing at the wrong street corner at the wrong time, you will be arrested and reported. Whether or not you are proven innocent hours later is irrelevant.
You’d think it couldn’t get worse. You’d be mistaken. Budget cuts mean that schools now have to make do with reduced staff. They become so overwhelmed at times that they feel their only recourse is to reach out to the police for help. More often than not, they are unaware of the potentially devastating consequences of that simple phone call on the lives of some of their students.
Abigail Trillin, managing attorney at Legal Services for Children, works with a number of these kids. She distinguishes between two types of clients:
- those who were detained as they attempted to cross the border;
- those who’ve been here for most of their lives, who don’t know anyone in their country of origin and sometimes aren’t even aware of their undocumented status.
This second category, in San Francisco, is now more exposed than ever.
Oh, and did I mention that the only other place in California that allows such practices is Orange County? Something, I’m sure, most SF residents would be ashamed to admit.
Now, the city board voted in 2009 to repeal this law. Why it hasn’t been enforced yet is a mystery. So, if you live in SF and are feeling militant, maybe you could write your Mayor and ask him to make it happen.
— From SF, actively.
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