The feds raid San Francisco

Pub date May 6, 2008
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL On May 2, the day after thousands demonstrated for immigrant rights — exactly one month after Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sup. Tom Ammiano stood in front of the cameras and announced a new initiative to promote the city’s sanctuary policy for undocumented residents — federal agents swept into the city and arrested workers at El Balazo restaurant as part of an immigration enforcement raid.

It was bitterly ironic: much of the excitement of the large May Day rallies in San Francisco came from the diversity of the crowds and the connections among labor, antiwar activists, and immigrant-rights groups. The raid reflects the ongoing disaster that is US immigration policy under President George W. Bush — arresting and deporting restaurant workers tears up families and communities, is a colossal waste of money, does nothing about the economic issues driving immigration, and damages the San Francisco and California economies. But it’s tough to get leading Democrats to take a strong stand on the issue: both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have ducked tough immigration questions during the presidential campaign.

And while San Francisco’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, was against the fence and called it a "terrible idea," she hasn’t said a word in public about last week’s immigration raid in her home city. Neither has Sen. Dianne Feinstein or Sen. Barbara Boxer.

There’s only so much San Francisco can do to block the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. The local sanctuary law bars city officials from in any way assisting ICE in apprehending undocumented immigrants, and Newsom and the Police Commission should direct Police Chief Heather Fong to investigate and ensure that there were no San Francisco law enforcement resources used, directly or indirectly, in the raid.

But local activists can do a lot to stop this insanity, using the sorts of political alliances we were encouraged to see forming at the May Day events. For starters, the antiwar, labor, and immigrant rights groups should call on Pelosi, Feinstein, and Boxer to denounce the raids and demand that ICE stop terrorizing California workers.