San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and immigration rights advocates Wednesday renewed their call to allow San Francisco to opt out of a new federal fingerprint reporting program aimed at criminals suspected of being in the country illegally.
Federal immigration officials said they would consider the request.
The Secure Communities program, begun in 2008 and being implemented across the country by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has drawn the ire of immigration groups who say the program is being used to sweep up undocumented immigrants whether or not they have committed serious crimes.
The groups argue the program also dissuades immigrants from reporting crimes in their communities, for fear they too will be deported. They claim it drives a wedge of distrust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement.
"I am not unwilling to cooperate with ICE with regard to serious (offenders) charged with felonies," Hennessey told reporters during a conference call with immigration groups Wednesday morning.
Hennessey said he had reported felony suspects believed to be in the country illegally before Secure Communities was implemented in the San Francisco June 8, and would continue to do so under the city's sanctuary ordinance.
Hennessey, worried that Secure Communities would conflict with the sanctuary policy shielding those booked for minor crimes, had asked ICE and the state Department of Justice to allow him to opt out of the program prior to its implementation in San Francisco.
The program -- which is now operating in 35 California counties, including all nine Bay Area counties, Los Angeles and San Diego -- shares the fingerprints of anyone booked into jail after an arrest, whether for a felony or misdemeanor, to be shared with ICE's federal databases to help determine if that person are in the country illegally.
The Justice Department is the go-between that shares fingerprints with ICE.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown rejected Hennessey's request in late May, saying Secure Communities "advances important and legitimate law enforcement objectives."