SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey said Friday he will soon begin releasing undocumented immigrants held in county jail for low-level offenses even if federal immigration officials request that they be held as part of its controversial Secure Communities program.

When Hennessey made the announcement, the stage was set for another confrontation between the city and federal immigration officials.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

Hennessey said ICE officials informed him it was not mandatory to comply with requests to hold undocumented immigrants for deportation if they were arrested on misdemeanor charges.

“Local law says you’re not supposed to cooperate with ICE except where you’re required to, so that’s why I made the change,” he said, referring to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that enforces immigration law.

The new policy takes effect June 1.

A spokeswoman for ICE, Virginia Kice, released a written statement calling the sheriff’s decision unfortunate. She argued that ICE holds are an effective tool to ensure that individuals arrested for crimes are not released back into a community to commit more crimes.

Kice said, “The identification and removal of many criminal aliens
would not be possible without the cooperation of our state and local law enforcement partners.”

She added, “ICE detainers are an effective tool to ensure that individuals arrested on criminal charges, who are also in violation of U.S. immigration law, are not released back into the community to potentially commit more crimes.”

The city currently keeps low-level offenders ICE has identified as illegal immigrants through fingerprints until immigration officials collect them. The San Francisco Examiner reports that 111 inmates were detained for deportation between last June and February.

Hennessey said the policy change would not pose any danger to the public.

“These are pretty minor things to begin with—open container, minor trespass, driving without a license. There’s not a lot of prosecutions that go on in these matters,” he said, adding that other inmates arrested on such charges are routinely released.

Mayor Ed Lee said he was not apprised of the policy change prior to Hennessey’s announcement, but supported the sheriff’s decision.

“We don’t want to spend local monies helping enforce immigration laws and that’s still been the law of San Francisco,” Lee said.

“Public safety is our concern and that’s what I’d like to sit down and talk to him about as we review all of our policies about this.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (22)
  1. Dave Francis says:


    Since the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act those in power has lied to the US people? Just sufficient laws have been passed, to give the impression that President Obama, George Bush or back to Ronald Reagan, promised to secure fully the border. That they would enforce immigration laws, but candidly nothing serious as ever been accomplished? We need to revisit President Linden B. Johnson, Immigration Restriction Act of 1921 policy “Quotas System”, so only certain amounts of foreign nationals are given entry visas. Its requirements were Numerical limits on immigration from Europe and the use of a Quota system for establishing those limitations. Similar legislation had been advanced several times previously without success. Recommencement of immigration and the widespread unemployment that followed the end of World War One demanded change, lending strength to the anti-immigration movement. In 1965, the American people were guaranteed that immigration would never exceed its then low level of 250,000 annually. Currently, it is at an all-time high of over a million a year and still rising.

    Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, a veiled Liberal progressive killed this law, attributing to the 20 million or more who have settled in this country today. You cannot trust any administration, the Liberal press, the liberal Extremists in Academia or any of the open border quasi organization, such as The Council of Foreign Relations. These organizations are for open borders, although we have upwards to 10 million US citizens and resident without a job. Leftists and equivalents all have their own agenda’s and Obama and his Leftist administration wants citizenship for the invaders, who stole into our country. There has been so much fraud within work visa programs, the agricultural Guest Worker and fabricated paperwork for skilled immigrants who have come here. The 1986 immigration bill has been a failure, but not because it’s—BROKEN–but because the laws were never enforced.

    The laws enacted, were intentionally made to be broken, underfunded still leaving access to cheap labor for Republicans and more votes for liberals and Democrats; legal or illegal. Ted Kennedy played on the sympathy of American Society, when he ardently promised in 1986, that there would never be another–AMNESTY. E-Verify was nearly killed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Secure Communities is not mandatory and the true 2006 Secure Fence Act, less than a 6 months later Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn pushed for “flexibility to choose other options instead of fencing, if needed.” Politicians obdurately vowed to keep America safe. The law specifically called for “at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, topped with concertina barbed razor wire with the installation of additional physical barriers, patrol roads, lighting, cameras and sensors” at five exact areas of border totaling approximately 700 miles.

    The revolution that is the TEA PARTY promises no citizenship for illegal aliens, or any of the clandestine Amnesties of which there has been six since 2004. The Tea Party leadership will vote out Pro-Amnesty law, which includes Sanctuary City ordinances and push in opposition to such bills as the dream Act, Chain Migration and any Immigration reform bills. What I really don’t understand is why Sanctuary Cities are passed over by (ICE) Immigration & Customs Service.?Its very obvious to me large populations of foreign nationals are hiding under the very noses of the enforcement authorities, its an the anomaly nobody is apprehended? WHY ARE ILLEGAL ALIENS PROTECTED BY THE US GOVERNMENT? WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM WHERE ALLEGIANCE IS CONCERNED. US Senator Rand Paul, a TEA PARTY activist in a letter to me opposes any citizenship for illegal aliens. He also said, “He didn’t think American taxpayers should be forced to pay for welfare, medical care or other expenses. If you are legally arrived in America you have an opportunity to join the TEA PARTY, as they are awaiting you to stop more of your taxes being taken to pay for illegal aliens. So much more interesting facts to be found at NumbersUSA, that connects you with the truth about the illegal alien invasion.

  2. genomega1 says:

    So the Sheriff decides which laws he will enforce. Well when one of these released criminals rapes, robs or kills someone I hope their loved ones sue this jerk for every dollar that he has. I wonder what other laws he will turn a blind eye to?

  3. fred thompson says:

    Hennessey- your tenure is going to be shortened rather quickly if you continue to flaunt the laws of the country. SF may be a county and a city in one but it is still part of the USA.
    Illegal is illegal. It is not up to you to decide the laws. You are suppose to enforce them. As a voting resident of SF, you will be voted OUT next election. I like my laws enforced please. I do NOT like paying for illegal and OUTLAW illegals to be sitting in our jails. SEND them HOME where they belong and please do re- read your oath of office. Might come in handy.

    1. Big G says:

      He’s not running for Sheriff, but now as Mayor!!! He is endorsing Ross Mirakani, or something like that,

  4. Big G says:

    Low level offenders, that’s what they were picked up for. Most don’t have jobs, are selling drugs & other minor offenses, breaking into cars & homes, getting high & drunk. You know low level, safe individuals who hold themselves accountable. Wake up SF & remember this Sheriff is backing Ross, I know whats best for all of you, to replace him as Sheriff. Think this Sheriff, is above the Law, wait & see what happens to our City when Ross gets the job!!!

  5. zak says:

    While I do not agree with the decision, the Sheriff is not violating any statute, Federal or otherwise. The article accurately notes the ICE Detainer is not a legal mandate, but rather a request to hold. Its a different matter for felony charges where the arresting agencies do hold & notify ICE of the person in custody.

  6. tjmckeen says:

    This chief pig Hennessey makes me sick! Stop the Sanctuary City BS! Enough already! Send the illegals back to where they came from and spare the legal resident/citizen taxpayers of more of their crime.

  7. donald says:

    What in the hell is SF doing! Send these Illegals back to Mexico!
    I live in the mission..The crime in our neighborhood has increased !
    They come here in the hundreds and leach off our system!Thats why calif. is broke.
    Vote these politicians out of office that support this !

  8. chris says:

    How is driving without a license a “minor thing”? There are tens of thousands of traffic fatalities every year.

  9. Bonnie says:

    So, does this mean that everyone will not be charged for an open container, or less than an ounce of pot….or just illegals??

  10. cg says:

    It is better to release non violent offenders than rapists, murderers, and child molesters!!! Our prisons are overcrowded as is and we, the citizens of the USA, shouldn’t have to pay for their free meal and board nor having our tax money spent on building more prisons. Ship them home.

  11. Troy says:

    Howz about this? The local Law Enforcement makes the arrest and immediatly turns them over to Federal Government (ICE) for detainer. Get them out of our local system. Deport Them!

  12. Diane A says:

    What until one of these illegals robs you or rapes your daughter. Sickening. These are KNOWN CRIMINALS!

  13. Steve says:

    You are right! They need to be shipped back home immediately!!!

  14. don barney says:

    Hennessey, you are a discrace to law enforcement. You know very well that the low grade criminal of today is the serious felon of tomorrow. He or she just hasn’t got caught yet for the big one. You putting them out on the sreet just gives them more time to committ the serious crime. You disgust me you traitor. It is your job to enforce the laws of this country. I’m sure next thing you do will stop registering sex offenders.

  15. janie says:

    San Francisco makes up their own laws as they go along. Does not think they have to answer to anyone. But they don’t mind asking for Federal
    Money, do they? Give them nothing, let them rot. Liberal creeps.

  16. Gen says:

    Hennessey and the top wigs in SanFrancisco will lose the shirts off their backs when I sue them AND WIN when I get injured in any way by and illegal immigrant.SAN FRANCISCO RECEIVES NO STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDING BECAUSE OF THEIR HARBORING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS that is the cold hard facts

  17. RealityCheck says:

    Just like Kamala Harris deciding not to seek the death penalty for ANY cases in San Francisco. They do what they want. It is all about politics. Since whites are about to become the minority in Norte Califa , he is pandering to the voters. He’ll be able to campaign on this for years to come.

  18. Bill Cunnane says:

    Illegals are already CRIMINALS because the entered the USA illegally. I am a police commissioner in my town and as such am ashamed at the actions of this so called sheriff. You cannot pick and chose what laws you want to enforce. Releasing criminals is not the action of any loyal Law Enforcement Officer. The people of SF need to have the sheriff decertified, city council needs to have him suspended for action unbecooming a Law Enforcement Officer. The policy of release is not one that holds water. All cities should drop sanctuary status and become SECURE COMMUNITIES.

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