Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cities begin to realize the need for immigrant labor, SFO a sanctuary city

Thursday, April 3, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
S.F. promotes services for illegal immigrants
Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer

A series of new television and radio commercials, billboards and bus
shelter signs will soon go up around San Francisco advertising the fact
that the city by the bay is also a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.

City officials on Wednesday unveiled the $83,000 ad campaign, which
features images of smiling residents and the iconic city skyline and
spreads the message in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian.
Brochures, which will be handed out in public buildings like police
stations and hospitals, promise safe access to city services for the
undocumented and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy when it comes residency

"We are standing up to say to all of our residents: We don't care what
your status is," Mayor Gavin Newsom said. "We care that you, as a human
being, are a resident of our city and we want you to participate in the
life of our city."

Officials said the public awareness campaign was prompted in part by a
series of federal immigration raids around the region last year that left
undocumented immigrants hesitant to come forward to seek medical treatment
or report crimes, out of fear they might be deported.

But the campaign precedes the city's plan in August to begin issuing
municipal identification cards to city residents - regardless of whether
they are in the country legally. Officials said they not only want
immigrants to know about San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, they want
city workers, business owners and others to know the same.

"We're taking a big bite of the reality sandwich in admitting that there
are people who live here who may or may not have citizen status," said
Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who helped spearhead the ad campaign and who
represents the city's heavily Latino Mission District.

Police Chief Heather Fong said officers will report undocumented
immigrants if they have a felony arrest, but otherwise, "we do not work on
enforcing immigration laws."

San Francisco became a sanctuary city in 1989 and since then it has barred
city employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents
with immigration investigations or arrests, unless help is required by a
federal or state law or a warrant.

It is the city's formal policy to not report illegal immigrants to federal
immigration agents when they visit public health clinics or hospitals,
enroll their children in school, report a crime to the police or seek
other city services or apply for benefits.

And while a number of cities around the country also call themselves
sanctuary cities, including San Jose and Oakland, Houston, Seattle,
Chicago and Miami, few - if any - have embarked on a widespread campaign
to advertise the fact.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani adamantly denied that New York is a
sanctuary city after he came under fire over the issue last year during
his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

"San Francisco clearly is going a step beyond most places in boasting
(about) and advertising this. Most cities kind of almost apologize to
their voters when they complain about it," said Mark Krikorian, executive
director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank
that supports restrictions on immigration.

Krikorian said San Francisco and other sanctuary cities are "openly
subverting the federal government's ability to protect the borders" by
extending protections to undocumented immigrants.

"They're making it as easy as they can for illegal immigrants to live in
San Francisco," he said.

Newsom, a Democrat who is considering running for California governor in
2010, made headlines last year when he said he would not allow city
department heads or "anyone associated with this city" to cooperate in
federal immigration raids. Wednesday he said no other issue he has
championed has received a more negative reaction from the public than his
sanctuary city stance - "and that includes gay marriage."

"Until we get it right in this country on immigration, until we come to
grips with the reality of newcomers from around the world ... then it is
appropriate to protect our citizens, to protect our residents and to
protect our families," Newsom said.

Newsom made the announcement in his City Hall office, alongside a
coalition of high-profile city leaders, from the police and fire chiefs to
city department heads and representatives from churches and community

The city recently created a position for an "immigrants rights
administrator" to work with city agencies so that employees understand the
sanctuary city policy and how to better serve immigrant communities.

City Administrator Ed Lee called San Francisco's new sanctuary city ad
campaign "not only the liberal thing to do, it's the responsible thing."

E-mail Cecilia M. Vega at


Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle

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