Immigrant rights groups stirred by opposition to Arizona's new immigration law turned their attention Thursday to a federal program newly begun in San Francisco that they say is terrorizing their community.
Dozens rallied outside San Francisco's state building Thursday morning, expressing their displeasure at a recent decision by Attorney General Jerry Brown to reject the San Francisco sheriff's request to opt out of the Secure Communities program.
Brown, who is now also the Democratic candidate for governor of California, told Sheriff Michael Hennessey in late May that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secure Communities program "serves both public safety and the interest of justice."
The program, which is being implemented nationwide and started in San Francisco June 8, allows for the fingerprints of anyone booked into jail after an arrest to be shared with ICE's federal database to help determine if they are in the country illegally.
"Because of these programs we've seen many deportations," said Guillermina Castellanos, director of a women's program at La Raza Centro Legal, a community law center working on behalf of the immigrant community.
Castellanos spoke in Spanish to the assembled crowd, who were waving signs and chanting.
"We don't want our children to suffer being separated from their families," she said. "Here in this city, it is right that we not be terrorized."
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a former San Francisco supervisor, also spoke at the rally.
"We need Jerry Brown to be governor, and I support him, but we also need to remind him of his moral responsibility to this issue," Ammiano said. "We need him to say that this program is an outrage."
Though ICE officials have said Secure Communities helps them identify and deport violent criminals, less serious offenders are also being deported, ICE statistics have shown.
Sheriff Michael Hennessey opposes the program, saying it conflicts with San Francisco's sanctuary city ordinance that shields undocumented immigrants accused of minor crimes