A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Wednesday cast doubt on San Francisco's ability to be completely excluded from a new federal program under which the fingerprints of all those arrested for any crime would be shared with ICE.
ICE claims the program will be prioritized to identify and deport violent criminals who might otherwise slip through the cracks.
However, some local officials and immigration advocates are worried undocumented immigrants simply arrested for any crime, however minor, could be subject to deportation.
A statement from ICE late Tuesday came in response to Sheriff Michael Hennessey's announcement earlier in the day that he wants San Francisco to be able to opt out of the Secure Communities program, set to go into effect in the city on June 1.
The program, which is being implemented nationwide, would allow the fingerprints of those booked at the county jail for any crime -- felony or misdemeanor -- to be accessed by ICE through a link with the state Department of Justice's criminal database. If a match is made with an individual already in ICE's database, and the current or a prior crime makes them deportable, the arrestee could be turned over to ICE.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice explained Wednesday that local law enforcement can choose not to receive information back on whether a fingerprint match has been made with the ICE database, but that ICE would continue to receive the fingerprints of all those booked.
Kice said that return of information could aid in ongoing local criminal investigations.
Hennessey asked state Attorney General Jerry Brown in a letter Tuesday to help San Francisco opt out, saying that the program conflicts with San Francisco's sanctuary law shielding those booked for minor crimes.
Brown's office responded to reporters in a statement Tuesday that it was told by ICE "that they (ICE) will work with counties to opt out of their program" and it was advising such jurisdictions to contact ICE directly.
" and it was advising such jurisdictions to contact ICE directly.