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Feb. 24 2010 - 6:06 am | 1,018 views | 1 recommendation | 5 comments

Immigration nightmare? Murdered victims’ family can’t sue SF for failing to protect

A father and two sons are shot and killed in San Francisco after a gang member misidentifies them as rivals. After their bodies are in the ground, the victims’ family finds out that the alleged shooter was Edwin Ramos, a “suspected illegal immigrant” from El Salvador who had been arrested several times as a juvenile and never turned over to immigration authorities. The victims’ family sues the city, claiming that if they had turned Ramos over, their father and brothers would still be alive.

The SF Chronicle reports:

Case records don’t show whether police or juvenile courts suspected that Ramos had entered the United States illegally. But under the city’s sanctuary policy, as juvenile authorities then interpreted it, they would not have passed along that information to federal immigration officials.

Mayor Gavin Newsom reversed that practice in 2008 and ordered city employees to report suspected illegal immigrant youths to federal authorities after felony arrests. City supervisors passed an ordinance over Newsom’s veto that delayed reporting until a youth is found to have committed a felony, but the mayor is refusing to enforce it, saying it violates federal law.

Judge Charlotte Woolard of San Francisco Superior Court said cities “generally are not liable for failing to protect individuals against crime.” More from the The Chron:

After Ramos’ release, federal authorities learned of his immigration status but did not take him into custody. The family’s lawsuit contended, however, that the city was responsible for the shootings because its policy had allowed Ramos to go free.

In her ruling, Woolard said San Francisco had no duty to protect the Bolognas or anyone else from Ramos unless city officials had information that he posed a specific danger to them. There was no such evidence in this case, she said

So there’s at least two unfortunate things going on here: 1) San Francisco has way too many illegal immigrants to track (which also likely means it’s politically expedient to just kinda look the other way in most immigration/deportation situations), and 2) because Ramos didn’t threaten his victims before he shot them, they’re not eligible to claim that the city failed to protect them. I’m no immigration scholar, but I’m guessing if “America’s Toughest Sheriff” was employed by the City of San Francisco, this ruling might have gone a different way.

What’s the answer to this boondoggle? To whom should the victims’ family look for restitution in this nightmare case? Should they even seek restitution? Or should they put aside those hopes and take comfort in Ramos’ status as a man facing life in prison without the possibility of parole in one of the worst prisons in the world?


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  1. collapse expand

    The authorities that pushed for sanctuary policies, the authorities that carried out sanctuary policies(local) and the authorities that allowed sanctuary policies to stand(Washington) make a perfect storm for Americans to die before they can be protected and defended. This is very backassward and a poor reflection on justice towards citizens. The mayor, police chief, D.A., judge, governor, president. senators and representatives all have some blood on their hands. They’ll all point to someone else and the common citizen they have all sworn to protect gets screwed.

  2. collapse expand

    So let me get this straight. You’re suggesting that if sheriff joke was George Gascon, the SFPD would have called the Feds and the murders wouldn’t have occurred because ICE operates like such a well-oiled machine?
    I hope you don’t get too worked up when the Fat Boys’ indictments get handed down.
    I find interesting that anti-immigrant types always discuss specific cases or murders as opposed to the larger picture:

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/02/22/immigration-and-crime

    The ICE Houston PD partnership is also paying off huge:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/02/23/houstons-illegal-immigrants-ge

    Retribution does nothing to increase public safety.

    • collapse expand

      Take this full-circle, kurt. Your point is that this family should keep their mouths shut, and that cases like these are ultimately irrelevant because there’s really nothing anyone can or should do to curb illegal immigration. Right?

      For the record, I’m not anti-immigration or anti-immigrant. I picked this story out because it highlights interesting legal questions, not because I wanted to toe some political line. And my reference to Arpaio had nothing to do with ICE as a “well oiled machine,” but if you have some information or theories related to what might’ve happened if Ramos had in fact been tuned over to ICE after his juvenile violations, I’m curious to hear them.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      “Retribution does nothing to increase public safety.”

      This sounds like an anarchist’s pledge of allegiance. No Jails, no punishment, just on big crime spree.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    San Francisco’s sanctuary policy in its current form is clearly outdated and needs improved. Is it really too much to ask that suspected illegal immigrants with criminal records face deportation? It seems kind of despicable that such criminal types benefit from a protection meant for “law abiding” but possible illegal residents. The city should be liable for the wrongful deaths, however, the real culprit in feeding this type of avoidable crime is that people who employ illegal immigrants who commit murder should be liable for damages as well.

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