Monday, September 15, 2008

Immigrants' arrests anger S.F. supervisors

Christopher Heredia, SF Chronicle
Sunday, September 14, 2008

(09-13) 18:25 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Two San Francisco supervisors expressed outrage Saturday at federal officers' handling of six immigration arrests this past week at a Visitacion Valley residence.

Four women and two men were booked into custody, and a 15-year-old girl was questioned at the residence Thursday night, according a spokeswoman for the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and two members of the Board of Supervisors.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said authorities went to the home seeking three adults who were considered to be fugitives after being ordered deported by a federal judge.

When officers arrived, they found three other adults who are undocumented and living in the country illegally and arrested them as well, Kice said. The girl has an application to stay in the country legally and so she was not apprehended, Kice said.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes Visitacion Valley, said City Hall aides told her the 15-year-old girl was left by herself after federal officers took all the adults from the residence, a claim Kice strongly denied.

"We're still investigating," Maxwell said, "but as far as I know, the child was left. That's my concern."

Maxwell said she was also concerned that agents entered the residence without a warrant. "We need to look at the protocol and whether they followed it," Maxwell said. "This child did not put herself in this situation, and that needs to be looked at."

Kice said the girl was never left without adult supervision and that officers acted in accordance with federal law. She said a warrant was not required in this case.

"We would never knowingly leave a minor unattended," Kice said, adding that the girl was supervised until another relative could pick her up.

San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said federal officers and San Francisco police were at the residence until the girl's aunt arrived.

Kice also disputed claims by the lawyer for those arrested that immigration officers acted in an abusive manner. One of the arrested men suffered minor injuries in a scuffle with federal officers.

Kice said the man tried to assault officers with a kitchen utensil. "It was not a knife," Kice said. "But he did attempt to assault officers. In subduing him, he was slightly hurt. He didn't want to go to the hospital, but officers took him anyway to make sure his injuries weren't serious."

Kice said the man was released back into custody with a clean bill of health and pain medication.

Whether federal officers or San Francisco police officers violated the city's sanctuary ordinance may be the subject of an inquiry by the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Tom Ammiano said.

San Francisco's sanctuary laws say that no city resources should be used to assist federal immigration law enforcement unless required by federal law. Police officers responded to the scene after a neighbor reported a commotion at the residence. They stood back once they determined federal immigration authorities were making arrests, Gittens said.

"It's very disturbing," Ammiano said of the incident. "Aside from the mean-spiritedness of these arrests, there appears to be a coordinated attack on the city's sanctuary status," Ammiano said. "The people arrested should be allowed due process, and it doesn't sound like that was the case."

Francisco Ugarte, a lawyer with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network, who is representing the arrested adults, said he is looking into whether federal officers violated the U.S. Constitution by entering the residence without a warrant and whether San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance may have been violated.

Ugarte said none of his clients went at officers with a kitchen utensil.

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