By Hamed Aleaziz
President Trump railed against sanctuary cities -- including San Francisco, a favorite target -- during his campaign, and once in office he demanded the release of public reports listing regions that limit their cooperation with immigration officials.
So it came as a surprise to many immigration experts Monday when not a single city or county in California -- where a state law known as the Trust Act severely limits the situations in which immigration holds can be granted -- was included in the first report as having such a policy.
"My gut thought is that I'm puzzled -- I'm not sure how they're leaving off California jurisdictions. I just don't know," said Bill Hing, a professor at University of San Francisco School of Law.
The weekly reports are meant to highlight regions that "choose not to cooperate with ICE detainers or requests for notification, therefore potentially endangering Americans," according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration officials issue detainers when they want jails to keep people past their release date, to give federal authorities time to pick them up.
San Francisco, along with other sanctuary cities, requires a criminal warrant for its jail to hold inmates.
"When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE's ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission," Thomas Homan, acting director of the immigration agency, said in a statement.
The reports are made up of two main parts. One is a snapshot of instances where agencies refused to hold individuals longer than their release date. Some California jurisdictions, including Alameda and Santa Clara counties, were included in that section of the first report.
The other part lists areas that have policies that restrict cooperation with immigration officials. No California jurisdictions were listed there.
But California is widely known as being home to many sanctuary cities. Trump famously criticized San Francisco after Kathryn Steinle was fatally shot along the city's Pier 14 in July 2015. Her alleged assailant was a man who was unauthorized to be in the country and had been released despite immigration officials requesting the city hold him.
As the administration follows through on Trump's promise to crack down on illegal immigration and punish sanctuary cities, it's unclear what Monday's omission of San Francisco or any other California jurisdiction signifies.
The administration could be considering public opinion, some legal and immigration experts said. Publishing a long list of California jurisdictions could make it seem like the idea is well established -- the longer the list, the more mainstream it appears, said Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.
And anyway, Gulasekaram said, the Trump administration is not likely to sway the opinion of many California residents by listing their cities or counties in the report. But including a place like Travis County, Texas, could change minds there.
"It's a place that's likely to get constituents to perhaps put pressure now on the sheriff and change the policy," Gulasekaram said.
There's also the fact that San Francisco is suing to block Trump's executive order that seeks to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. Trump administration attorneys have said that a motion to immediately block the order is not necessary because they have yet to withhold funds.
"If you put (San Francisco) on this list, that could be used by the city to say, 'It is very clear you intend to actually take away our funds,'" Gulasekaram said.
It's also possible that the administration made an error in putting the report together, said Christopher N. Lasch, a professor at University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
There were other mistakes in the list, some local officials said. Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, said the instance of it denying a detainer was inaccurate. The Sheriff's Office did not have a detainer denial of an inmate who matched the description listed in the report, Kelly said.
ICE officials acknowledged that the list may be incomplete. Jurisdictions included in the report "are based upon publicly disclosed policies," said James Schwab, a spokesman for the immigration agency. "This is a working document and will, over time, capture a more clear picture as it evolves."
So San Francisco could show up on the list next week, when the second report is expected.
Still, the fact that San Francisco wasn't on the first list makes it seem like the report was not put together carefully, Lasch said.
"I think this raises the question of, 'Why is the data so wrong? Is there some kind of agenda being pursued through the selective inclusion or exclusion from the list?'" Lasch said. "The fact that no mention is made of the California Trust Act or any local California policy certainly jumps out as a glaring error."
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