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Rolling Back San Francisco's Sanctuary Policy By: Tom Fitton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 30, 2008

Judicial Watch’s nationwide campaign to abolish illegal alien sanctuary policies got a huge boost last week thanks to a landmark decision by a California appellate court.


On October 22, the First District Court of Appeal for the State of California ruled in our taxpayer lawsuit that the San Francisco Police Department must comply with a state law requiring police officers to notify federal authorities when they arrest a person for various narcotics offenses whom they suspect to be an alien, legal or illegal [Fonseca v. Fong, Case No. A120206].


With its ruling, the appellate court shot down a lower court ruling that the law in question, Section 11369 of the California health and Safety Code, was an impermissible invasion of the federal government’s “absolute authority” to regulate immigration.  Rejecting this argument, the appellate court remanded the case back to the trial court to make sure the SFPD’s policies comply with Section 11369.


Here’s an excerpt from the ruling, which can be read in full by clicking here:


…Section 11369 does not require any state or local law enforcement agency to independently determine whether an arrestee is a citizen of the United States, let alone whether he or she is present in the United States lawfully or unlawfully.  Nor does the statute create or authorize the creation of independent criteria by which to classify individuals based on immigration status... All of those determinations, as well as the duty to tell an arrestee who may be in this country unlawfully to either obtain legal status or leave, are left entirely to federal immigration authorities…the statute is therefore not an impermissible state regulation of immigration.


Section 11369 of the Health and Safety Code (Section 11369) states“[w]hen there is reason to believe that any person arrested for a violation [of any of 14 specified drug offenses] may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters.” 


Seems clear enough.  However, as Judicial Watch argued in its complaint on behalf of its taxpayer client, Charles Fonseca, the SFPD had implemented policies, procedures and practices that prohibited police officers from complying with this law. 


As evidence of the SFPD’s illegal behavior, Judicial Watch quoted a statement from the San Francisco Field Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that noted a “bare minimum of cooperation” between administrators of the San Francisco County Jail and ICE. 


As a result of the appellate ruling, San Francisco must now end its sanctuary policy that protects aliens arrested for certain drug offenses from being reported to ICE.


Illegal alien advocates such as the ACLU are dead wrong when they claim local law enforcement agencies cannot help enforce immigration laws.  This ruling puts the lie to their bogus argument.  Let’s hope this decision sends shock waves through every community in America where public officials have implemented unlawful sanctuary policies for illegal aliens. 


This is a very significant victory for Judicial Watch.  Congratulations go to JW attorney Jim Peterson who argued the case on our behalf at the appellate court.


If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Judicial Watch’s new internet site, www.sanctuarybusters.org, to find out how you can help Judicial Watch abolish sanctuary policies in every corner of the country.

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.

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