An illegal migrant who was detained and now marked for deportation by federal immigration officials in San Francisco is charging that police broke the law by detaining him in violation of the city’s “sanctuary city laws.”
Pedro Zarceno-Figueroa, a Salvadoran national living in the city’s Mission District, called police to report a stolen car. But when he went to the police station to file the report, police asked for his license and proof of registration and ownership of the vehicle. Police then learned Figueroa was not a legal resident.
But that isn’t what caused Figueroa to end up in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. As police ran Figueroa’s name, they discovered an outstanding failure to appear warrant issued by Homeland Security. While researching the warrant, police contacted ICE to explain what the warrant was for and an agent was dispatched to the station afterward.
It was then ICE took Figueroa into custody.
Police officials say they did nothing to violate the city’s “sanctuary city laws” because they were simply doing due diligence on the warrant. They say they never told ICE to pick the man up, but only needed to clear up what the warrant was about.
Figueroa’s lawyer, though, claims his client was acting in good faith and assumed that the city’s laws shielding illegals from detection by ICE would be upheld if he reported the initial crime bringing him to the station.
“When Mission District resident Pedro Figueroa asked police to help find his stolen car, the last thing he and his family expected was arrest, extended detention, and deportation,” Figueroa’s lawyer said in a statement. “Yet Pedro has been trapped in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention for 45 days and counting, at risk of deportation to danger and even death in El Salvador.”
ICE officials released their own statement on the case.
“Pedro Zarceno-Figueroa was taken into custody Dec. 2 by officers assigned to one of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams,” said the statement. “The Fugitive Operations officers targeted Mr. Zarceno-Figueroa for arrest based upon his conviction for DUI and an outstanding order of removal issued by an immigration judge in 2005. 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.”
At a press conference about the case, Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender, said, “Pedro Figueroa was the victim of a crime, and today he’s the victim of a broken immigration system. San Francisco is a sanctuary city. We welcome immigrants, we have a law and a policy that should protect them, and yet Pedro Figueroa was not protected.”
Two Hispanic women holding signs that read “FreePedro” and “ICE Out of California” were also present in a display staged by Adachi.
Still, a San Francisco police spokesman said the department did not coordinate with ICE agents to have Figueroa picked up. Police insisted they followed procedure but released Figueroa after ICE officials refused to divulge details on a judge’s warrant for the illegal’s arrest that was already in the national system. “We’re going to confirm a warrant and if it’s not confirmed we’ll release the individual, which is what we did in this case. I think it was out of the norm for an ICE agent to have showed up at the station. I don’t think anyone expected that to happen,” SF Police Department Capt. Jerry Difilippo told the media.
Meanwhile, crime rates have skyrocketed in so-called sanctuary cities all across the country. According to Judicial Watch, homicide arrests are up 55 percent and rape arrests are up a whopping 370 percent, and San Francisco is one of the worst cases.
“Citizens understand that when San Francisco and other sanctuary cities release illegal alien criminals onto the streets, crime is going to increase,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These new crime statistics suggest that there are more murders and an epidemic of rape linked to San Francisco’s releasing illegal alien criminals in violation of law.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com