SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – An undocumented immigrant who claimed he was reported to federal authorities in violation of the San Francisco’s Sanctuary City ordinance and has been awarded $190,000 in damages says he is living in fear.
Pedro Figueroa – who came to San Francisco illegally from El Salvador — sued the city, claiming police violated his rights in December of 2015 when they handcuffed him to a bench even though he had not committed a crime.
Figueroa had walked into the police station in an attempt to recover his stolen car. When officers ran a computer check on him they discovered a civil warrant.
He was then walked him outside into an alley, had the handcuffs removed and handed him over to ICE, the federal immigration agency.
Figueroa — who has a fiancee who is a U.S. citizen and an eight-year-old daughter — was jailed by federal authorities for two months and is now fighting his deportation. While he was in detention, his recovered stolen car was auctioned off by local police.
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He says despite winning the damages, he is “scarred for his life.”
“No matter the amount of money,” he said in Spanish and translated through an interpreter. “I am scarred for life.”
“What happened to me was very unfair and it was an injustice. I went into the police station to seek help and they didn’t tell me anything that was happening. At no point did they say what the motive was for my arrest. And they arrested me and treated me badly.”
Some San Franciscans say their tax money shouldn’t be used to pay the damages.
“The police officers and deputy sheriffs did nothing wrong,” said Howard Epstein from the San Francisco Republican Party. “They take an oath to uphold the federal laws and state laws and they are upholding the federal laws.”
But San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee defended the settlement.
“I would say how much is your rights worth?” Lee said. “How wrong is it to correct the perception with a whole slew of immigrants who said “God, if can that happen to him, I’m not gonna walk the streets, I’m not gonna go to school, I’m not gonna see my doctor.”
San Francisco approved a Sanctuary City policy in 1989 prohibiting city officials from enforcing immigration laws in most cases as a way to encourage immigrant communities to trust and cooperate with police.
A second 2013 ordinance, Due Process for All, prohibits San Francisco law enforcement from detaining people on behalf of immigration authorities for deportation unless they are wanted for a serious crime.
Figueroa was speaking out on the very day the US House voted on two immigration bills that are aimed squarely at San Francisco.
One is called Kate’s law after Kate Steinle of San Francisco. Police say she was shot to death by an undocumented homeless man who later claimed to have found the gun.
The bill would raise the maximum prison penalties for immigrants who repeatedly reenter the United States illegally.
Another bill called the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” would require local law enforcement to comply with immigration “detainers” on deportable individuals. It would also cut off federal money to locales that insist on being sanctuary cities.
Figueroa said through an interpreter that was important for people to be treated “like human beings” and that San Francisco should fight to remain a Sanctuary City.