San Francisco police officers are being slammed for violating the city’s stringent “sanctuary city” policy by taking a car-theft victim wanted for deportation into custody and handing him over to federal immigration authorities.
Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno, 31, failed to appear at an immigration hearing in San Antonio in December 2005 and was arrested in 2012 for drunk driving. In November, he reported his car had been stolen to San Francisco police; on December 2, police informed him they had found it, prompting him to travel to the Southern Police Station, where he was handcuffed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Police had run a background check, finding that Figueroa-Zarceno had missed his immigration hearing ten years before, triggering an outstanding warrant for his arrest. According to Eileen Hirst, chief of staff for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, police officers contacted her department’s central warrant bureau. The bureau’s deputies then contacted the service center at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to confirm the warrant should be honored. Once they heard that the warrant had been confirmed, police released Figueroa-Zarceno to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Internal ICE documents show that the SFPD communicated directly with ICE just before he was turned over to ICE, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
San Francisco’s 2013 ordinance, “Due Process for All”, bars law enforcement from holding people for immigration authorities for later deportation unless they are wanted for a serious crime.
Figueroa-Zarceno was released from jail on Wednesday.
On Friday, James Schwab, an ICE spokesman, responded to the furor by asserting Figueroa-Zarceno was one of the “at-large foreign nationals who meet the agency’s enforcement priorities, including convicted criminals and other individuals who pose a potential threat to public safety. Mr. Zarceno-Figueroa’s case is now being reviewed by the immigration courts to determine whether he has a legal basis to remain in the U.S.”
Police Chief Greg Suhr said that Figueroa-Zarceno should not have been jailed; police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak asserted, “We are happy and relieved that Mr. Figueroa-Zarceno has been restored to his family. It is the policy of the San Francisco Police Department to foster trust and cooperation with all people of the city and to encourage them to communicate with SFPD officers without fear of inquiry regarding their immigration status. We are aware of concerns this incident has raised with some members of our community.”
An internal affairs investigation has been launched.
One month before the infamous murder of Kate Steinle at Pier 14 in San Francisco, the suspect was released; Then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi had issued a memo banning his underlings from contacting immigration agents unless a warrant or court order had been obtained.