S.F. to ease up on unlicensed drivers — Video: Illegal Alien Edwin Ramos Kills 3 In San Fran — San Francisco Board of Supervisors expands city sanctuary policies–the politics — Video: San Sanctuary Francisco — Edwin Ramos won’t face death penalty — Video: SANCTUARY PSYCHO — New sanctuary proposal on protecting youths



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S.F. to ease up on unlicensed drivers

SF Gate – Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross

Call it sanctuary on wheels: San Francisco is about to give a big break to people, many of them illegal immigrants, who are caught driving without a license.

Beginning Sunday, cops will no longer impound cars the first time drivers are pulled over without a license.

The reason: Many such drivers are in the United States illegally – and thus unable to get a license – and the officials pushing the change think that impounding their cars is an unfair hardship.

Instead, unlicensed drivers will be given 20 minutes to phone a relative or other acquaintance with a valid license and insurance to pick up the car. If the driver doesn’t have a cell phone, police will help him contact someone.

If no one shows up, then the cop is to call a supervisor to approve the tow.

A second offense within six months means an automatic tow. But, for those who stay clean for half a year, the clock starts over.

The change means San Francisco will be far more accommodating to unlicensed drivers than police in Oakland, San Jose and even lefty Berkeley. Cops in all those cities impound the cars of people driving illegally.

Recently installed Police Chief George Gascón said San Francisco is “trying to be sensitive to all of the communities we serve.”

“We recognize that this is a problem within the Hispanic community, where people working here can’t get a driver’s license because of their immigration status,” Gascón said.

The 30-day car impounds have long been a sore point with the city’s Latino politicos and activists, who feel the practice is unfair.

Some police officers we spoke with, however, said people without licenses are often lousy drivers – and that the change means more dangerous streets for everyone else.

“These are the same people who are sailing through stop signs and injuring people,” said one traffic cop who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

Gascón emphasized that unlicensed drivers “will still be cited. If they don’t learn their lesson and repeat offend, the car will be impounded.”

The chief said the change was already in the works when he came to town at the end of July. He said it had sprung from conversations between Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor David Campos – who arrived here illegally from Guatemala at age 14 – and former Police Chief Heather Fong.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard – whose boss is refusing to implement Campos-backed legislation barring the city from turning over illegal immigrant youths to the feds if they haven’t been convicted of a felony – confirmed that when it comes to giving unlicensed drivers a break, the mayor and the supe agree.

“On this one, we’re all on the same page,” Ballard said…]



San Francisco Board of Supervisors expands city sanctuary policies–the politics

October 20, 11:26 PM – SF Politics Examiner – Arthur Bruzzone

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors took the first step yesterday to prohibit the reporting youths accused of drug crimes to Federal immigration authorities. The measure, will pass next week, will be vetoed by Mayor Newsom, and be overridden by the Board, is packed with intriguing politics.

First, from my debate on PBS’s KQED-FM, with the supervisor who has led the fight for the measure, Supervisor David Campos, I believe he is sincere in his concern for the “children”. As he calls them. He himself was an illegal entrant at the age of 14, and went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University Law School.

Supervisor Campos is under tremendous pressure to pass the measure. His main legal argument is that the measure is about due process and equality under the law. But the Feds also respect due process.

A prominent judicial officer, very familiar with the Federal reporting requirements, told me that he knows of no youth arrested for one of the 15 stipulated drug crimes who has ever been deported before or after his arrest, unless convicted. The Feds have bigger, more notorious illegal entrants to target —try members of the brutal M-13 gang operating throughout the U.S. and on San Francisco streets.

No, in the end this is about politics: Supervisor Daly’s running battle with Mayor Newsom (he wants to embarrass the campaigning Newsom), the board’s political tug-a-war with the mayor’s office (who should set city policy), board members appeasing the progressive “community” (anti-police sentiment), and pressure on board members to unmask the mayor’s questionable progressive credentials (they’ve never really trusted him.)

Most important, a warning shot for the new police chief, George Gascon, who has made street drug dealing a major priority.  A Board of Supervisors, which to date has been comparatively mute and sane, is flexing its muscles as past boards have done.

Fact: drug dealers, stretching from Central America to the streets of San Francisco, have exploited the city’s liberal sanctuary policies. This measure can only delight them. In fact, there’s evidence that cartel leaders regularly recruit teens in Central America for duty on the city’s streets – because of our policies towards the “children”. At times they’ve threaten the teens’ families if they don’t head North to do their bidden…]



SF Gage – Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, September 11, 2009

(09-10) 14:30 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will not seek the death penalty for an alleged gang member accused of murdering a father and two of his sons, a prosecutor said Thursday.

The announcement in San Francisco Superior Court means that Edwin Ramos will at most serve life in prison without parole if convicted of the June 22, 2008, slayings of Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16.

The decision is in keeping with Harris’ campaign promise never to seek the death penalty. There had been speculation, however, that with Harris running for state attorney general next year, she might shift direction in an especially notorious crime.

Assistant District Attorney Harry Dorfman put an end to that speculation in court Thursday. “We will not seek the death penalty in this case,” he told Judge Charles Haines.

Harris said outside court that her office will do everything it can to make sure Ramos “dies in prison for these horrific crimes.”

She said her office had spent “many, many months” reviewing the case, but did not give a specific reason for her decision.

“We have thoroughly reviewed the facts and the law in this case,” Harris said. “It was a complicated analysis that involved many issues, many facts and many laws.”

Widow outraged

The decision angered members of the Bologna family.

Tony Bologna’s widow, Danielle Bologna, “is outraged,” said Marti McKee, a spokeswoman for the family. “She feels that the city of San Francisco has let her and her family down.”

Danielle Bologna and other relatives have sued the city, saying that authorities should have turned over Ramos, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, to federal authorities for deportation when he was arrested on gang-related offenses as a juvenile.

“She feels that not only did she lose half her family, she lost her home because she was forced to move so she could protect the rest of her family,” McKee said. “With this decision, it will just never end.”

Shot in their car

Ramos, 22, believed to be a member of the MS-13 gang, was ordered in June to stand trial for the killings of the Bolognas, who were shot to death in the Excelsior district by someone in a passing car as they were driving home from a family outing.

Authorities believe Ramos mistook one of the Bologna sons for a rival while looking to retaliate for the shootings of two fellow MS-13 gang members earlier that day.

The lone survivor from the attack, Tony Bologna’s 19-year-old son, testified during a 10-day preliminary hearing that he had seen Ramos open fire after the defendant pulled alongside his father’s car at Congdon and Maynard streets and delivered a menacing stare.

Ramos’ attorney, Marla Zamora, argued that her client had been driving the car carrying the gunman but that he had not fired the shots. She said Ramos was not a gang member and had identified the killer, a man whom authorities have been unable to locate.

High-profile call

For Harris, the case was the most significant death-penalty decision she had had to make since the April 2004 killing of police Officer Isaac Espinoza.

Ramos’ previous criminal record was similar to the one compiled by Espinoza’s killer, David Hill. Ramos had no adult record but had two gang-related offenses as a juvenile, one for an assault on a Muni passenger, the other the attempted robbery of a pregnant woman.

Hill also had only a juvenile gang-related record and, like Ramos, was 21 when he was accused of murder. Harris spared Hill the death penalty; a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in 2007, and he is serving a sentence of life without parole.

Harris announced her decision on Hill, however, within hours of his arrest, prompting criticism from police and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others. Thursday’s announcement on Ramos, in contrast, came more than a year after he was arrested.

After the Hill furor, Harris followed the example of many other prosecutors and set up panels to potential death penalty cases.

In the Ramos case, prosecutors have alleged three special circumstances that could have made him eligible for lethal injection – that the Bologna killings were gang-motivated, that they were committed as a drive-by attack, and that the shooter committed multiple murders.

Harris’ predecessor as district attorney, Terence Hallinan, also had a policy of not pursuing capital punishment. No one in San Francisco has been sentenced to death since 1991, when Clifford Bolden, now 53, was convicted of the 1986 robbery and slaying of Michael Pedersen. Bolden is still appealing his sentence.

SF Gate – Marisa Lagos, John Coté,  Chronicle Staff Writers – Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A San Francisco supervisor’s proposed legislation would make it more difficult for officials to hand over undocumented youths suspected of crimes to federal immigration authorities, a policy that, if approved, could have far-reaching impacts.

The proposed law would require that juvenile suspects be convicted of a felony before San Francisco officials contact federal immigration authorities – unless the suspect is charged as an adult.

Currently, immigration authorities are contacted at the time of a felony arrest – a change implemented last year by Mayor Gavin Newsom after the city’s sanctuary city policy made national headlines. Newsom’s change angered many in the city’s immigrant community.

Supporters of Supervisor David Campos’ proposed amendment to the 1989 sanctuary city ordinance say most juveniles arrested on suspicion of a felony later see those charges dropped to a lesser offense in court. They also argue that youths should be treated differently than adults and make the case that police would gain greater trust if the threat of splitting up families is removed.

The legislation appears to have enough support to pass the Board of Supervisors, which may be able to override a mayoral veto should that be the case.

Detractors warn that if passed, the proposal could open the city up to legal challenges. It could also impact policies nationwide.

Angie Junck, an attorney who has been tracking sanctuary city policies for several years, said that what happens here is being closely watched. The city has one of the few written policies in the United States, and while it was once one of the most liberal when it came to handling undocumented juvenile immigrants, the change last year made it one of the toughest.

“This is a carefully drafted piece of legislation that in a very measured way strikes the balance between two extremes: the prior extreme of never reporting anybody to immigration authorities when laws were broken and the other extreme of the existing policy, which in a very reactionary way reports children the moment they are booked for something they may or may not have done,” Campos said.

Evolving policy

San Francisco’s sanctuary city ordinance, created in the late 1980s for refugees fleeing Central American civil wars, made headlines last year after The Chronicle reported that the city was shielding young felons from deportation. In one of the most high profile cases, Edwin Ramos, 22, who had been arrested for several felonies as a youth but never referred to immigration officials, was arrested and charged with the 2008 slayings of Tony Bologna and his two sons.

Newsom’s new policy angered Latinos and immigrants, who said the change has cast too wide a net and led to racial profiling. Lawyers for youths who have been arrested cite cases where legal residents are referred to immigration officials, or where youths arrested for minor offenses are suddenly taken from their family.

One of the youths facing deportation is a 16-year-old Mission District resident who did not want his name used because his immigration case is pending. The teenager was arrested for felony graffiti, though a juvenile court judge considered the offense minor enough to warrant just six months of informal probation and some community service. The teenager has lived here since he was 7 and says San Francisco is the only home he knows. “I won’t have no one to turn to – no shelter, no food,” if he is deported, said the youth, whose father lives in San Francisco.

Junck, the attorney, argued that referring children for deportation can have terrible effects because youths who may have committed a minor offense often become trapped in a web of more serious crimes, including illegally re-entering the United States to reunite with their families.

“It becomes a maze they can never get out of,” she said.

Legal questions await

However, even if Campos’ legislation passes, it could face legal challenges.

Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Ballard, warned that if the city does “not follow state and federal law to the letter, our sanctuary city ordinance will not survive.” Whether the current policy follows stated and federal law is in dispute.

Two lawsuits have already been filed regarding San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy. In one, Bologna’s surviving family members are accusing the city of negligence.

In the other, Charles Fonseca argues that the city’s policy violates a state law that requires police to tell federal authorities whenever they arrest a suspected illegal immigrant for any of 14 specified drug crimes, including misdemeanor possession.

The lawsuit was thrown out once but was reinstated on appeal, and is still pending.

Supporters of Campos’ legislation said its overarching aim shouldn’t be sacrificed because of drug crimes that account for only a fraction of the offenses youths can be charged with.

Yet a draft report prepared by the Juvenile Probation Department earlier this year showed that the majority of undocumented youths in the juvenile probation system were there because of drug offenses. Over a four-year period, out of 252 cases involving undocumented youths, 180 were accused of drug offenses, the report said.

U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello, a Republican appointee and vocal critic of the city’s sanctuary policy, said in a statement that “legislating ‘harboring’ will provide no greater protection against federal criminal prosecution than any of their past suspect practices did.”

What is sanctuary city?

The ordinance, passed in 1989, “prohibits city employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with immigration investigations or arrests unless such help is required by federal or state law or a warrant,” according to the city’s Web site. Many other municipalities now have similar laws.

For more information on San Francisco’s law and how it translates into city policy, go to www.sfgov.org/sanctuary.

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