Chesa Boudin Will Create the First Ever Immigration Unit in the District Attorney’s Office to Implement the Most Far-Reaching Immigration Policies in the United States
The Trump administration has waged a savage and xenophobic war on immigrants, tearing families apart, undermining trust in law enforcement, and exposing hundreds of thousands of people to brutal and inhumane conditions in immigrant detention facilities across the country, including right here in Northern California. The human and financial costs of this war are massive: At least seven children have died since last year, dozens of the nearly 2,000 pregnant women in detention facilities have miscarried, and countless other people who are detained suffer from inadequate medical care. This war on immigrants is immoral and unjust. It undermines fundamental American values, and it must not persist.
Though San Francisco is a sanctuary city, many members of our community face a litany of threats here based solely on their status as immigrants: They continue to face a risk of detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); they are at risk of deportation and face other collateral consequences if they are arrested or prosecuted; and they are victims of hate crimes, discrimination and abuse. We must protect all members of our community from these attacks.
Boudin will protect our immigrant communities by implementing six major reforms:
- Establish the first-ever Immigration Unit in the District Attorney’s Office
As District Attorney, Chesa Boudin will establish the first-ever Immigration Unit in the District Attorney’s Office. Boudin helped create the first ever Public Defender’s Immigration Unit starting in 2012, and it is now one of the most effective units in any public defender in the country at protecting immigrant rights. In 2013, he worked with the Sheriff to develop a policy of non-cooperation with ICE, a precursor to San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policy. Now as DA, through the Immigration Unit, he will implement a robust set of protections for immigrants in San Francisco, continuing our city’s important tradition of leading the fight for justice for all members of our community.
- No more collateral consequences based solely on immigration status
When a person is convicted of a crime, they often face a number of unrelated penalties (called “collateral consequences”) that have nothing to do with their sentence or with public safety: They might lose the right to vote, to take out a student loan, or to live in a certain area, for example. If the person is an immigrant, they may face an even more severe collateral consequence: deportation to their home country, often a place they haven’t been to in decades and may not even remember, or somewhere they fled due to violence or racial, religious, or political persecution.
Complex immigration laws mean that the number and type of offenses that could make a person eligible for deportation are ever-changing, and often expanding. That’s why the Immigration Unit will track those offenses and ensure that immigrants are offered plea deals whenever appropriate that are “immigration-safe,” meaning they will not subject the person to an enhanced risk of deportation.
Finally, the Unit will review past convictions that made a person deportable. When appropriate, the Unit will permit the person to withdraw a deportable plea, and instead, enter a plea to an immigration-safe charge. The Immigration Unit will also assist in sending support letters to the governor to encourage pardons in an effort to help fight deportations.
- Investigate and prosecute crimes committed by ICE agents or other law enforcement agents who violate Sanctuary City laws
It is no secret that many ICE agents have used illegal tactics in San Francisco to wage Trump’s war on immigrants: They have conducted warrantless raids, violating important constitutional protections that apply to non-citizens and citizens alike; they have used racial profiling and excessive force; they have deceptively posed as local law enforcement officials to try to garner trust from residents; and they have illegally obtained confidential documents to spy on and detain targeted immigrants.
Nobody is above the law. That’s why the Immigration Unit will investigate these abuses, and when ICE agents break California law and endanger our communities, they will be prosecuted.
In addition, if any agents violate our Sanctuary City Ordinance or our State Sanctuary laws and hold our community members for ICE agents, they will be prosecuted.
- Build trust with immigrant communities and enhance access to justice
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, but immigrants’ trust in local law enforcement remains dangerously low. When communities don’t trust law enforcement, they don’t report crime. As a result, those communities and our entire city become less safe. We need to change that by letting immigrants know—and trust—that local law enforcement will never cooperate with ICE. That’s why the Immigration Unit will launch a robust public awareness campaign to ensure that immigrants in our city—our friends, neighbors, and family members—know that they are safe here. In addition to this specific effort, the Unit will improve language access and cultural awareness through hiring, retaining, and promoting to leadership positions a diverse staff in the DA’s office, including in the victim services unit.
The Unit will also advocate for stronger state-wide sanctuary laws to protect our communities even when they travel and leave San Francisco.
- Help every single immigrant victim of every crime obtain a U-Visa
Although immigrants are less likely than native born Americans to commit crimes, they are more likely to be victims. Immigrants who are victims of crime, along with their immediate family members, may be eligible to remain in the United States by aiding the prosecution of the crime committed against them. This mechanism is called a U-Visa, and it is a crucial pathway for immigrants to obtain legal status. The Immigration Unit will work to identify eligible immigrant victims of crime to ensure that every person who might avail themselves of this process is informed and assisted in doing so. This includes all victims of sheriff or police violations of sanctuary law. Nobody should be denied access to this important process simply because they are unaware of it or are unable to navigate its nuances.
- Advocate for Universal Legal Representation for People Facing Deportation
Right now, people in deportation proceedings have no right to counsel and are expected to navigate the complexities of immigration law on their own. Given the complexities of the law, the language barriers, and how seriously deportation affects a person’s life and the lives of their family members, it is absurd and unjust that there is no right to counsel for people facing deportation.
That is why the Immigration Unit will advocate, locally, statewide, and nationally, for universal legal representation for everyone facing deportation. Every single person facing deportation deserves an attorney. That does not mean all deportations will be prevented, it just means that the process will be fair, rather than the farcical status quo in which toddlers appear alone in deportation proceedings.
The Immigration Unit will also vigorously oppose any funding initiative which excludes immigrants from receiving legal representation based on their criminal record. Some politicians have refused to support funding for immigrant legal services unless individuals with certain types of convictions were carved out. This is unconscionable and antithetical to the concept that everyone has a constitutionally guaranteed right to counsel, particularly in a complicated and high stakes legal proceeding. Such exclusions play right into Trump’s “bad hombres” narrative, sorting the good from the bad in deciding who has access to fundamental rights.
The District Attorney’s Office plays a crucial role in determining the fate of immigrant communities. A single decision by a prosecutor may mean the difference between deportation, which tears apart families and entire communities, or staying in the place called home, which enriches our city in innumerable ways. San Francisco is a sanctuary city with a long, proud history of immigration. The District Attorney’s Office must reflect that truth and work to protect San Francisco’s immigrants to help them and our city thrive.