What do you get when you enter the US illegally, sell crack, and then claim to be a juvenile? If you're in San Francisco, you get free airfare home. Citing the city's status as a sanctuary city, juvenile probation officials are protecting Hondurans caught selling crack from federal deportation by giving them a city-paid flight home with no restrictions on returning.
The practice has prompted a federal criminal investigation to see if San Francisco has been systematically circumventing US immigration law. A spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says, "our job is to uphold the nation's immigration laws. Although San Francisco is a sanctuary city, it's a problem whenever someone attempts to evade the law. . . . Our law does not allow us to turn a blind eye to any individual who has come into this country illegally." To see how SF has become a travel agency, read more.
When arrested, those caught routinely say they are minors, though police suspect otherwise citing full beard growth among other distinctions. Despite this, city authorities usually suspect their stories and send the cases to Juvenile Court, where proceedings are often shielded from public scrutiny. Instead of deporting the drug offenders, authorities have been recommending that Juvenile Court judges approve city-paid flights home to Honduras with the goal of reuniting the alleged "youths" with their families.
The city-funded Hotwire has some hopping mad. The US attorney in charge of the San Francisco area, said he was "flabbergasted that the taxpayers' money was being spent for the purpose of ferrying detainees home. You have to have a perfect storm of dumb moves to have it happen. . . . What we're facing is a number of people gaming the system." Some offenders have been arrested four or five times.
There is no official word as to how many juvenile drug offenders have been flown out of the country or how much the city has spent on the effort.