An illegal immigrant who had his car stolen is suing the city of San Francisco for turning him in to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Pedro Figueroa Zarceno, a 32-year-old man from El Salvador filed the suit in U.S. District Court this week, claiming that the city violated his right to due process along with breaking their own sanctuary city ordinance. The suit also includes a demand that the city files paperwork stating that Figueroa was a victim of false imprisonment.
Figueroa was in ICE custody for two months after reporting his car stolen in November 2015. When he showed up at the police station to fill out a police report to claim his car once it was found, police arrested him and handed him over to federal authorities.
Homeland Security reported that San Francisco police ran a routine background check after Figueroa filed the police report and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant from 10 years ago ordering his deportation when he failed to appear at an immigration hearing in 2005 and a 2012 conviction of driving while intoxicated.
As a sanctuary city, San Francisco city officials are not permitted — per local ordinance — to use city resources to help federal officials enforce federal immigration law. The law was written to provide illegal immigrants the ability to report crimes or seek assistance from city authorities without fear of being deported.
After Figueroa appeared at a press conference in February, Police Chief Greg Suhr admitted procedure was not followed when he was handed over to federal authorities. Police said that internal affairs would review the case to establish whether there was any officer who should face disciplinary action.
According to his attorneys, Figueroa planned to seek asylum due to the ongoing violence in his home country of El Salvador. They insist he had no idea there was an outstanding warrant for his deportation until the day he was arrested. But if Figueroa wins the case, paperwork filed by the city stating he was a "victim of false imprisonment" would set him up to become eligible for a U-Visa, which is sometimes given to those who were victims of a serious crime.
One of Figueroa's attorneys Saira Hussein told the San Francisco Chronicle, "With an incoming federal administration threatening mass deportations and targeting sanctuary cities, we must hold SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department accountable and ensure that every single officer is following the city’s due process protections."
An immigration hearing for Figueroa is set for May, but with the immigration court backlog, his attorneys don't expect the hearing to actually take place for another two years.