Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2008
San Francisco’s immigrant sanctuary policies played a “substantial” role in the slayings of a father and two of his sons by allowing city officials to shield the alleged killer from deportation, despite his violent history, according to a legal claim filed Friday on behalf of the victims’ family.
The claim is likely to be followed by a wrongful death lawsuit in which the family of Tony Bologna and his sons could seek millions of dollars from the city.
Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, were shot to death on a street in the Excelsior district June 22. Edwin Ramos, 21, of El Sobrante, who authorities say is a member of a street gang, has been charged with three counts of murder.
The Chronicle reported that officials with the Juvenile Probation Department, relying on their interpretation of San Francisco’s sanctuary city ordinance, had not referred Ramos to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation. The ordinance bars city officials from cooperating with federal crackdowns on illegal immigrants.
After other Chronicle stories on the city’s practices appeared, however, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office reiterated a 1994 legal opinion that nothing in the law prevented the city from handing over juveniles to federal immigration authorities, if the minors have committed felonies.
The city attorney has 45 days to respond to the Bologna family’s claim. The city typically rejects such claims, after which plaintiffs are free to file suit.
The claim says the city knew that Ramos was an illegal immigrant and was part of a gang, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), that attacked Latinos and African American men who were not members of the gang.
Police have theorized that Ramos shot the Bolognas because he mistook them for rival gang members. The father and his sons were shot in their car as they returned home from a Sunday afternoon family barbecue.
The Bolognas’ claim asserts that the city knew that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were targeting illegal immigrant gang members for removal from the United States and would have sought to deport Ramos immediately had they known of his juvenile record.
The claim places blame on the city’s Juvenile Probation Department for adopting “official and unofficial policies” that amounted to unlawfully harboring illegal immigrants who committed violent crimes.
[Editor’s Note: More on this case and San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policy can be read here.]