Kamala Harris’ comments earlier this week discouraging Central Americans from traveling to the southernmost border of the United States rattled San Francisco advocates, who point to the vice president’s chequered record on immigration during her time as a city official.
“It does betray our values,” said Francisco Ugarte, an immigration attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. “Our city has declared itself to be a tolerant city, to recognize immigrants as a core part of our community. For someone who came from San Francisco politics to then declare to people in Guatemala ‘don’t come, we’ll defend our borders,’ it is just highly hypocritical.”
Harris gave her remarks at a news conference in Guatemala Tuesday. She quickly sparked outrage among many Democrats who have viewed her as a national figure unafraid to play hard ball when pushing for immigration reform.
But here in San Francisco, longtime immigration advocates say her political track record is less favorable, stressing that her recent comments crossed even that line.
“I’m certainly not one of these folks that thinks she’s just like the Republicans. It’s just false,” said Ugarte. “She actually cares about immigration, but it’s a mixed record.”
Harris, herself the daughter of immigrants, rose to prominence in the mid-2000s as the District Attorney of San Francisco, a city partly known for its decades-long status as a safe haven. Under its Sanctuary City policy enacted in 1989, official resources can’t be used to enforce federal immigration law, save for a few exceptions.
But while Harris held local office, she supported a 2008 policy from then-mayor Gavin Newsom that required local law enforcement to turn over undocumented juvenile immigrants to federal immigration authorities if they were arrested as a suspect in a felony crime.
Ugarte said the policy turned juvenile halls into a feeder for deportation, calling it one of the “greatest human rights crises” The City ever faced.
By Carly Graf for SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER
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