Bay Area leaders pledge protection for undocumented immigrants

- San Francisco interim Mayor Mark Farrell announced Thursday that the city plans to pay for legal representation of any immigrant that the Trump administration tries to deport.

On Thursday, ICE announced 232 arrests in Northern California in a four-day period. 

Farrell spoke at Carecen, an immigrant rights organization in the Mission District, where he made the announcement alongside Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and Supervisor Hillary Ronen. He said his goal is to make sure every single immigrant that the Trump administration tries to deport has legal representation in immigration court.

“We are in unprecedented territory here,” Farrell said. “He is targeting our immigrant community, here in San Francisco. We’re not going to stand for that.”

Farrell and Assemblyman Phil Ting are partnering together to advocate for $7 million in state funding. The city will spend an additional $3.5 million annually on legal defense services, bringing the total annual amount to $11.1 million. That represents a 236-percent increase from spending levels two year prior.  

Of the $3.5 million in additional funding, $2.5 million will be allocated toward the San Francisco Immigration Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC) and the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN).

"It's great to see that the $45 million allocated in last year's state budget strengthened legal services for immigrants throughout our state," said Assemblymember Ting. "I know the need continues to be great, and I look forward to the City's input as we put together another state spending plan in the coming months."

An additional $1 million will go toward the budget of the Public Defender's Office. 

“If we don’t stand behind them, nobody will,” Farrell said. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it is the san Francisco thing to do.”

In Oakland, the right thing to do, according to Mayor Libby Schaaf, has caused controversy. Schaaf continued to receive backlash Thursday, this time from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“I think it’s outrageous that a mayor would circumvent federal authorities and certainly put them in danger by making a move such as that,” Sanders said. “It’s currently under review by the Department of Justice.”

A statement from the Office of the Mayor in Oakland said, “The Mayor’s office is not aware of a review.”

“I support her,” Maria Lopez, a Bay Area resident who works in Oakland, said. “In light of everything that’s going on, it just went out as a heads up to people and she was very clear that she just wanted people to be prepared.”

But others have said Schaaf obstructed justice as detailed in a letter sent to the US Attorney’s Office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. It was authored by Ronald Cohen of Fremont, Amin Salkhi of Alamo, and Brendan St. John of Pleasanton. 

“I just don’t understand the rationale behind protecting illegal aliens that have committed crimes and putting ICE agents at risk,” Salkhi said. “It just doesn’t make sense for a state, city, or local jurisdiction to pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”

Salkhi believes local agencies should work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up undocumented criminals at jails, instead of looking the other way. Salkhi and his family came to the U.S. legally as Iranian citizens. They constantly applied for the proper documentation to be in the country legally. It took 8 years for his family to gain legal status. He now owns and operates several gas station franchises across the Bay Area.

“For people to just bypass the rules and get ahead, it’s just not right,” he said.

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