Nearly 30 percent of the felony offenders San Francisco juvenile justice officials have reported to federal immigration authorities since the city stopped shielding youths from deportation actually are adults, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The city’s Juvenile Probation Department has referred 58 offenders to federal authorities since Mayor Gavin Newsom announced July 2 that the city no longer would protect youths from deportation under San Francisco’s sanctuary law. The mayor acted after the Chronicle reported that the city was paying for flights home and $7,000-a-month group homes for underage, undocumented offenders, who as adults could face prison and automatic deportation. Most of the 58 were being held on drug-dealing charges.
“It confirms our early suspicion that adults were taking advantage of the sanctuary policy in order to evade detection, responsibility and prosecution for criminal behavior,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello. Russoniello said adult illegal immigrants convicted of felonies face almost certain deportation, but San Francisco’s previous policy of not reporting juveniles who had committed similar offenses to federal officials encouraged offenders to “game the system” and say they were underage. Advocates for the immigrant youths say that just because some offenders turn out to be adults does not mean the city should report all juvenile immigrant offenders to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “We believe all youth in the juvenile justice system in San Francisco should be treated the same,” said Renee Saucedo of La Raza Centro Legal, a law center for immigrants.