San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a letter published Tuesday in The Chronicle that federal immigration officials locally had agreed in 1996 to go along with the city's policy of "reuniting undocumented youth with their families" rather than deporting them.
Joseph Russoniello, U.S. attorney for Northern California, said he had found no evidence of any such agreement and denied that federal officials had ever ceded authority to the city.
"No one can find any support, either from an individual or in documents, of what Adachi claimed," he said. "There are a number of people who remember the years from the '80s and the '90s - there was never any agreement."
Adachi said he did not have a copy of any agreement, and referred questions to Eleazar Aramburo, an immigration-rights attorney who was on the city's Juvenile Probation Commission in the mid-1990s.
Aramburo said Nancy Alcantar, then an official with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Francisco under the Clinton administration, had agreed in 1996 not to pursue illegal immigrant offenders for deportation. Alcantar is still with the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the successor agency to the INS.
"We met with Nancy. She reviewed the policy," Aramburo said. "Everyone was on board."
Alcantar declined to be interviewed but issued a statement that read, "We know of no agreement that was made between regional staff and juvenile probation over 10 years ago." She also said her agency's efforts to locate illegal immigrant juveniles in San Francisco had been thwarted for at least the past three years.
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