Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2007
Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed Sunday to maintain San Francisco as a sanctuary for immigrants and do everything he can to discourage federal authorities from conducting immigration raids.
The mayor cannot stop federal authorities from making arrests, Newsom told about 300 mostly Latino members of St. Peter’s Church and other religious groups supporting immigrants. But no San Francisco employee will help with immigration enforcement.
The Board of Supervisors first declared San Francisco a “sanctuary city” in 1989. The designation, which many U.S. cities across the country took on during the 1980s, has no legal meaning.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have since May 2006 conducted raids across the country, including arrests in San Rafael, Oakland, Richmond, San Pablo, Santa Clara and other cities across the Bay area. Immigration officials have said they were executing arrest warrants for immigrants who had committed crimes or were in the country illegally and had ignored final deportation orders.
The raids, many of which conducted at private homes before dawn and some of which caught up legal immigrants and even citizens, have created an uproar in the Bay Area. Politicians and community leaders have demanded they end, saying some immigrants parents are now afraid to send their children to school or leave home.
Immigration agents on Friday arrested 13 foreign nationals who were working illegally at Eagle Bag Corp. in Oakland, a packaging manufacturer whose clients include the U.S. military. The arrests there of immigrants suspected of using counterfeit documents to obtain jobs were not related to the recent raids.
San Rafael Mayor Al Boro in March called on California’s U.S. senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, to push the immigration agency to change how it is enforcing immigration law because he believed children were the ones being hurt.
Marches and rallies are planned in coming weeks in Redwood City, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and other cities.