San Francisco resident Pedro Figueroa never expected to be ordered deported by immigration officials after reporting to police that his car had been stolen.
After recovering the car, police summoned Figueroa and asked him to show proof of ownership; they also ran his name through the police database to search for any history of warrants. According to San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, the 31-year-old Figueroa is an undocumented immigrant and had a pending warrant for failure to appear in court, issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This led to a sheriff’s clerk calling federal authorities, despite not knowing what the warrant was for exactly.
Because police officials lacked sufficient information to detain Figueroa, they had no choice but to release him. His story, however, takes an interesting turn, as Hennessy said an agent waited to pick Figueroa up outside the station.
San Francisco’s Sanctuary City Law Under Fire
The Figueroa case has once again brought San Francisco’s sanctuary city law under fire, after it drew criticism after the death of Kate Steinle, who was shot by an undocumented immigrant with a history of multiple deportations.
The sanctuary city provision prohibits law police authorities from working with federal immigration officials, except in cases of violent felonies. In Figueroa’s case, however, immigration rights supporters believe local enforcement officials have undermined the law. Figueroa’s attorney, Zachary Nightingale, pointed out that police weren’t supposed to call the feds about his client, who entered the police station with no worries over his immigrant status and sincerely believed he was the victim of a car theft.
A representative from the San Francisco Police Department, however, has been quick to deny any accusations of the agency cooperating with immigrant agents. The ICE on the other hand, released a statement saying that Figueroa was arrested for a prior misdemeanor DUI and an outstanding removal order issued in 2005.
Questionable Events Leading to Deportation Order
Figueroa’s lawyers discovered an odd story behind their client’s removal order. In 2015, he had entered the United States seeking asylum from gang violence in El Salvador. Immigration authorities would later release him from detention pending a court hearing, which never happened as his case would be forgotten—a due process problem Nightingale says is all too common.
Figueroa had no idea the ICE had a warrant for him because the feds never contacted him in the first place—and he never bothered to ask why. The ICE ordered him deported despite failing to serve a notice, an error acknowledged by a Texas immigration judge, who agreed to reopen Figueroa’s case.
As of February 17, Figueroa was released on bail from an ICE detention center. The San Francisco PD had earlier denied working with immigration officials, but an internal ICE document obtained by the media shows that ICE and SFPD sheriff did indeed communicate with each other about Figueroa’s case.
Cases like these highlight the problems and challenges faced by immigrants seeking fair treatment under the law. Learn about your rights by contacting the legal team at Lyttle Law Firm. Visit our website or call us at 512-215-5225.