San Francisco No Longer a Sanctuary City

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By Kamika Dunlap on May 12, 2010 1:45 PM

San Francisco will be joining a new national fingerprinting program next month that will undo its long-standing city sanctuary policy.

Under a new federal program, Secure Communities will automatically link the fingerprint databases of state justice departments with a database used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

As a result, San Francisco officials will lose their ability to decide which criminal suspects (who may also be undocumented immigrants) should be reported to federal officials.

Currently, under the 1989 sanctuary city policy, law enforcement is required to report to federal officials only felony suspects whose legal status cannot be confirmed upon booking.

With San Francisco's demand for public safety, the city was seen as a beacon for immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

But that shelter of protection for undocumented immigrants under the sanctuary city policy will go away.

The Secure Communities program, which has been rolled out in more than 160 local jurisdictions and is expected to be nationwide by 2013, automatically checks the immigration status of anyone arrested or booked for either a misdemeanor or felony.

Secure Communities program officials say the new system has been a help to public safety and saves law enforcement officers time and money. In addition, it removes the risk of allegations of racial profiling.

But critics say that people booked for even minor offenses could be swept into the federal immigration system.

In addition, it could have a potentially broader impact on anyone whose fingerprints are run through the California Department of Justice for a criminal background check, including those applying for certain jobs, such as child care worker and teacher.

Today, more than 20 states and several California counties have already implemented the program.