San Francisco, CA – The sheriff of San Francisco said that her department’s “defenses” were tested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on March 8, when they were able to gain access to two illegal immigrants who were in custody at two separate San Francisco jail facilities.
San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy said that she was “embarrassed” to learn that her staff had cooperated with federal agents, the San Francisco Gate reported.
“[They were] testing our defenses, and they found some weak points,” Sheriff Hennessy lamented.
The ICE agents entered the jails, and requested to speak with two inmates, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) officials said.
One of the illegal immigrants refused to meet with the agents, but the other cooperated, and participated in an interview.
At the conclusion of their meeting, the SFSD told the unnamed inmate that ICE planned to detain him once he was released from SFSD custody, the San Francisco Gate reported.
“My staff made a mistake and I have to hold myself accountable,” Sheriff Hennessy said. “I apologize on behalf of the department. I feel embarrassed by it. I’ve taken steps to make sure it never happens again.”
According to Santa Clara University School of Law professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram, California’s sanctuary laws required ICE agents to obtain written consent from the illegal immigrant they planned to interview. The suspect also had to be made aware that the interview was voluntary, and that he or she had the right to have an attorney present, the San Francisco Gate reported.
“Either what’s happened here is a deliberate opposition to San Francisco’s non-cooperation policy by sheriff’s deputies, or ignorance of that policy,” Gulasekaram said. “And ICE, doing what it does, which is to attempt to take advantage of that ignorance.”
The illegal immigrant’s attorney, San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi, said that his client now has an “irreversible” detainer placed on him by ICE, according to KPIX.
“How sheriff’s deputies are not aware of our sanctuary policies is quite frankly beyond me,” Adachi said. “It’s a very simple one - that they’re not to cooperate with ICE.”
“I hope this wasn’t a situation of deputies acting on their own sort of as ICE vigilantes, that certainly would be grounds for discipline,” Adachi added.
Sheriff Hennessy said that she reiterated the policy to supervisors inside the detention centers, and that she also issued a department-wide directive that further addressed the matter, the San Francisco Gate reported.
“Sheriff’s Department watch commanders are communicating this directive at muster at each of three daily shifts for one week,” SFSD spokeswoman Nancy Crowley said.
When ICE agents showed up at one of the jails on Monday, they were denied access to the illegal immigrants they sought to interview.
“That’s a good sign,” Sheriff Hennessy said.