In an effort to enforce immigration control where federal statues are failing, more and more states are moving to pass legislation that will allow them to manage immigration control in their own way in the face of federal control challenges. California is joining the ranks of other southwestern states such as Arizona and Texas in creating their own immigration reform legislation designed to provide controls where federal laws have shown weaknesses. Earlier this week, San Francisco officials moved to sever ties with U.S. Immigration authorities and end the practice of enabling deportations by extending the detention of illegal immigrants who have been arrested for crimes.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors moved to enable this legislation, which will garner San Francisco mayor Ed Lee’s signature within the next ten days and would exclude specific violent offenses, ultimately would no longer require local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants for up to 48 hours beyond their release dates, a practice that has been commonplace since 2008 that allowed the extra time in detention for immigration agents to arrive and take custody of immigrants for possible deportation.
The partnership between San Francisco and U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, known as the Secure Communities partnership, has drawn criticism over the past few years from civil rights groups who believe that non-violent immigrants should not face the fear of deportation when reporting crime.
The new law is set to take effect 30 days from the date when Mayor Lee signs the bill into law. This piece of legislation is far from ground breaking though. Similar laws from Los Angeles county and others garnered support earlier in 2013, a day after a declaration from California Attorney General Kamala Harris indicated that cooperation between local governments and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is a voluntary action rather than a mandate.
So, what does this mean for the average American citizen? Not much really. The law is designed to encourage illegal immigrants to come forward and report crimes in an effort to curb criminal activity in largely Hispanic populations, which are largely compromised of illegal immigrants, without the threat of potential deportation. Each detainee will be evaluated on the crimes committed and those determined not to be violent offenders will be released within normal timeframes and would not be subject to potential deportation. Violent offenders can still be held for the extended time limits and may face deportation under the current guidelines. Violent crimes can consist of such crimes as murder, rape, and domestic violence but can include financial crimes such as car accident fraud and insurance fraud.
And, while San Francisco is the focus of this particiular legislation, they are far from being the only city to pass specific laws surrounding illegal immigration. While Texas continues to participate in Secure Communities program they have additional laws restricting access to driver’s licenses, EBT benefits, and voting rights to legal residents only. Texas is also considering more stringint laws as it pertains to identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.
There has been wide support for the formation of this law. In December 2012, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck declared that his department would no longer unilaterally grant detainer extensions on illegal immigrants requested by The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rather, the LAPD would perform a review of the crimes with which the detainee was charged and make a decision as to whether or not to involve Immigration. Following Chief Beck’s declaration, Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca issued a similar statement with regard to the Sherriff’s Office.
However, not all San Francisco authorities are in support of such the proposed action. San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association and police Chief Greg Suhr are not in support of the new law and have indicated a preference to continue their current cooperation with the Secure Communities program and the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency.
The San Francisco law, which was unanimously accepted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will take effect no later than early December 2013. Although the mayor of San Francisco cannot veto the bill, there are certain to be legal actions taken by groups who do not support the changes to the current laws.