U.S. Attorney Russoniello Responds to Herrera Letter on Sanctuary Amendment

City Attorney sought assurances that City officials, employees would not be prosecuted for federal crimes for implementing ordinance

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 3, 2009) — U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello today sent a written response to City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s letter in which Herrera sought assurances that City law enforcement officers and employees would not be criminally prosecuted for violating federal laws were the amendment to be implemented in accordance with its terms. The Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 10 to override a mayoral veto of an amendment to the San Francisco City and County of Refuge Ordinance — or “Sanctuary Ordinance” (S.F. Admin. Code Sec. 12H) — pertaining to the confidentiality of juveniles’ immigration status. In his letter to Russoniello immediately following the Board’s vote, Herrera underscored his duty to pursue an aggressive, vigorous defense to enable the amendment’s fullest possible force and effect, writing at the time:

“If the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not provide us with an adequate assurance that it will not prosecute City officials or employees who would implement the Amendment, my Office may be compelled to explore with City policymakers other options regarding the implementation and enforcement of the Amendment, including the possibility of filing a declaratory relief action in federal court.”

A copy of the U.S. Attorney’s response, which is a public record, has been made available on the City Attorney’s Web site. The City Attorney has also made available a copy of a letter previously sent to the Asian Law Caucus, which is a representative example of his response to community-based organizations urging implementation of the amendment, and offers to assist the City in its legal efforts. At this time, the City Attorney is in the process of conferring with clients and legal counsel, and will offer no commentary on the U.S. Attorney’s response. A PDF copy of U.S. Attorney Russoniello’s letter to City Attorney Herrera regarding the City’s amendment to the Sanctuary Ordinance is available online at https://www.sfcityattorney.org/