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Attorney Saira Hussain, left, and her client, Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno, speak with reporters on Thursday (Image: AP)
San Francisco has agreed to pay an illegal immigrant $190,000 for the “injustice” of turning him over to federal immigration authorities.
City settles with illegal immigrant for the “injustice” of turning him over to federal immigration authorities
Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, filed a lawsuit in January against the City of San Francisco, after San Francisco Police arrested him and turned him over to federal immigration authorities in violation of the city’s “sanctuary city” law.
The construction worker contacted the police in December 2015 after they informed him that his stolen car had been found. When he arrived at the police station, officers detained him and called immigration authorities.
“What happened to me was very unfair and it was an injustice,” Figueroa-Zerceno said, “I went into the police station to seek help and they didn’t tell me what was happening and they arrested me and treated me badly.” Figueroa-Zerceno is now fighting deportation.
San Francisco has a city law that prohibits law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, except when a violent crime occurs. Figueroa-Zerceno filed a lawsuit against the City, and was represented in the action by the Asian Law Caucus.
Saira Hussain, a staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus who represented Zarceno, said the City reached an agreement on Thursday to pay the settlement. The agreement must still be approved by the City’s Board of Supervisors.
San Francisco’s settlement is a slap in the face to supporters of “Kate’s Law”
San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” law came to the forefront of the national debate on immigration after 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was murdered in July 2015 by a previously-deported illegal immigrant. Steinle’s murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been released by San Francisco officials under their “sanctuary city” policy, despite pleas by immigration officials to keep him incarcerated.
“Kate’s Law”, the legislative result of national outrage over the event, was passed by the U.S. House on Thursday. The law increases penalties against illegal immigrants who return to the U.S. after being previously deported. The law passed the House by a wide 257 to 157 margin, with Democratic lawmakers constituting all but one of the nay votes.
Zerceno ignored his own deportation order
While Zerceno has not been charged with a “violent” crime, it must be remembered that neither had Kathryn Steinle’s murderer at the time she was killed.
Steinle’s murderer had been turned over to the city for a drug offense. Under its sanctuary city law, however, which limits cooperation with immigration authorities, San Francisco did not honor his federal detainer order and released Sanchez.
Federal officials said Zarceno also had a deportation order arising from his failure to appear at his immigration hearing in December 2005, and from a 2012 conviction for drunken driving. When San Francisco police discovered that Zarceno had an outstanding warrant, perhaps remembering their mistake with Sanchez, they held Zarceno for federal authorities.
Trump administration preparing to fight sanctuary cities
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a statement last Friday after it went to court defending a newly passed Texas law that fights sanctuary city policies.
“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws.” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions – Statement of Interest Filed in support of Texas law prohibiting “sanctuary cities”
“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws. Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in the statement. “The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’ effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”
Should the Board of Supervisor’s pay the settlement?
Citizens wishing to express an opinion to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on whether or not it should pay the settlement, may email the Office of the Clerk of the Board at Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org.Ready to get involved?
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Keywords: Asian Law Caucus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, illegal immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, Kathryn Steinle, Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno, San Francisco, sanctuary city.