When a survivor of domestic violence faces the clenched fist of an abusive partner, a phone call to 911 can be life-saving.
But what if you feared that calling for help could turn into a nightmare with a long, baseless detention in the local jail followed by a transfer to immigration authorities for deportation?
For too many survivors of domestic violence — and other forms of violence — this fear is all too real.
Fortunately, eight San Francisco supervisors are doing something about it. Their Due Process for All ordinance, authored by Supervisor John Avalos, deserves our support. The ordinance will ensure a call for help doesn’t become the opposite.
At the heart of the problem is a failed federal deportation program with the Orwellian title of Secure Communities, also known as S-Comm.
Imposed on our city in 2010 over the objections of the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff, S-Comm forces San Francisco to immediately send the fingerprints of everyone arrested to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is before people have had their day in court, undermining due process.
In the case of domestic violence, even when it’s not immediately clear who is the abuser and who is the victim officers are required to make an arrest. This can result in some very serious or violent-sounding charges. But even when the facts are sorted out under S-Comm, it’s too late.
That’s because when it gets the fingerprints, ICE then sends out “detainer” requests that ask our jail to hold people for extra time at our own taxpayer expense. To be clear, ICE asks that people be held beyond the point they would otherwise be released.
Here’s where a second violation of due process occurs. These requests are optional, as California Attorney General Kamala Harris has confirmed. They aren’t based on probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion that a person is deportable — simply a hit in a database. No wonder U.S. citizens have been wrongfully detained by the holds.
The impact on community safety is severe. A survey conducted in the Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and Chicago areas by University of Illinois professor Nik Theodore found that this commingling of local policing and federal immigration enforcement has made 70 percent of undocumented Latinos less likely to make police reports — along with 28 percent of Latinos who are U.S. citizens.
We need to make a clean break with broken policies and stop these cruel and costly detentions. We’ll save resources and strengthen public safety.
San Francisco should champion a gold standard that upholds the principle of equality under the law.
That’s what the Due Process for All ordinance does. No one would be held for extra time based on ICE’s flimsy requests.
Some raise the issue of people who might have serious charges or convictions. But the best way to fight crime is to build strong relationships with the community and to effectively use our criminal justice system to conduct smart, focused investigations. A blanket, discriminatory dragnet hurts victims and witnesses to crimes and makes us all less safe.
We shouldn’t confuse apples and oranges. In the past, the debate was about who was reported to ICE. But under S-Comm, everyone is always reported.
To ensure community safety, we need to dismantle barriers that prevent victims and witnesses from coming forward. That’s why we embrace the Due Process for All ordinance.
Beverly Upton is the executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium. Maria Carolina Morales is the programs co-director at Community United Against Violence.