SAN FRANCISCO — Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were given access to two interview rooms at San Francisco County jails last week, breaching the city’s Sanctuary City policy, which bars local law enforcement from allowing ICE agents to contact inmates.
In one of the incidents, both of which occurred Thursday, the inmate who ICE agents requested to speak with refused to participate in the interview. In the other case, the inmate participated in the interview, according to sheriff’s officials.
After learning of the breach of department policy, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy took immediate actions, including reiterating department policy to facility commanders and addressing any training failures.
“Any policy breach is a serious matter, especially as it pertains to the department’s obligation to upholding the city’s sanctuary commitment.
We made a mistake and as sheriff, I hold myself accountable,” Hennessy said in a statement.
“The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has one of the strongest policies in the country which protects the rights of undocumented inmates. As a result, ICE is trying tactics they haven’t tried in years,” Hennessy said.
The inmate who participated in an interview with ICE agents Thursday had been notified the week before that ICE requested a voluntary detention or notification of his release. The inmate, however, was not given an interview consent form because the department’s policy prohibits ICE agents from accessing inmates for administrative investigations.
The inmate was notified of his legal rights as an immigrant, according to sheriff’s officials.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the inmate, who is a client of the Public Defender’s Office, was interrogated by ICE agents without a lawyer present and was asked to sign a document he was unable to read and they never told him what he was signing.
“It is difficult to believe that sheriff’s deputies would be untrained in San Francisco’s sanctuary policies, which are very clear and have been in place for years. But I take the sheriff’s word that this was a mistake that will never happen again,” Adachi said in a statement.
On Monday, ICE agents returned to the county jail requesting to interview an inmate but were denied access, according to sheriff’s officials.