A day before the presidential inauguration, a major U.S. county slapped employees with a stern warning about their obligations under local sanctuary policies that protect illegal immigrants. In a two-page memo obtained by Judicial Watch, officials in San Francisco reminded all city and county workers of their duties under the county’s longtime measures shielding illegal aliens from deportation. It appears that the document was issued as a preemptive strike against President Donald Trump’s hardline on illegal immigration.
“All people seeking or receiving City services must be treated with equal dignity, respect for human rights, and due process under the law, regardless of immigration status,” the memo states. “This includes informing them of their rights and access to services, as well as giving out general and/or translated information on services and programs that is timely, accurate and complete.” The memo, issued on official City and County of San Francisco letterhead and disseminated by Human Resources Director Micki Callahan, acknowledges that federal law prohibits local government entities or officials from restricting information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual.
Nevertheless, the Bay Area government document states that city and county employees acting in their official capacities may not use city funds or resources to assist or cooperate with any investigation, detention, or arrest procedures conducted by federal immigration authorities and relating to alleged violations of the civil provisions of federal immigration law. The new memo further outlines the other provisions of the county’s sanctuary statute, including forbidding workers from denying illegal aliens city or county benefits on the condition of immigration status and banning them from requesting or giving out information regarding the release status of an immigrant. San Francisco public employees are also prohibited from responding to a federal immigration officer’s request for notification of an individual’s release, presumably because they have been earmarked for removal.
“It’s important to make sure all City employees are aware of these rules,” the memo, which is dated January 19, 2017, states. “Departments may include education on the City’s sanctuary city laws in regular employee trainings and orientations based on templates that will be established by the Office of Civil Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA).” San Francisco officials end the document by conceding that it’s not a substitute for legal advice and that “state and federal law may impose additional obligations.”
Just days before the memo was distributed an illegal immigrant with a drunk-driving conviction sued San Francisco city police and county sheriff for turning him into immigration authorities after his car got stolen. The man, Pedro Figueroa Zarceno, was convicted of driving drunk in 2012, a local newspaper reports, and has an outstanding warrant for his deportation from more than 10 years ago. In his lawsuit, Zarceno claims that he plans to file for asylum, citing violence in his native El Salvador. In the article his pro bono attorney said that Zarceno was the victim of a crime who should have been protected by San Francisco’s sanctuary ordinance. “With an incoming federal administration threatening mass deportations and targeting sanctuary cities,” the attorney, Saira Hussain said, “we must hold SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department accountable and ensure that every single officer is following the city’s due process protections.”