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San Francisco reconsiders 'sanctuary city' status amid fentanyl overdose crisis

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey (Photo by Tayfun CoÅkun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Officials in San Francisco are considering withdrawing certain "sanctuary city" protections due to a rising fentanyl crisis that has led to a shocking number of overdoses, KRON-TV reported.

Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Matt Dorsey, a Democrat appointed by Mayor London Breed (D) last year, said in a Tuesday statement, "It is time to withdraw the protection of sanctuary from undocumented immigrants trafficking fentanyl on our streets."

According to investigators, as many as half of the individuals selling drugs in the city are illegal immigrants. Currently, the city's sanctuary status prohibits San Francisco authorities from aiding Immigration and Customs Enforcement in most circumstances.

Dorsey introduced legislation to revoke sanctuary protections from illegal immigrants who have contributed to the fentanyl crisis. However, Dorsey's status exceptions would only apply to illegal immigrants convicted of fentanyl-dealing within the last seven years and then reconvicted of another fentanyl-dealing felony or violent felony. If passed, the legislation could make it easier to deport them.

"I'm asking my colleagues to update our 'Due Process for All' ordinance to add fentanyl-dealing felonies alongside violent felonies," Dorsey told KQED. "The whole idea of sanctuary was to create a safe environment so that local governments could serve immigrant communities, including undocumented immigrant communities, and have their trust. To do otherwise would be to empower organized crime and elements that might exploit people who are in vulnerable situations."

Of the 620 fatal overdoses reported in 2022, 451 were caused by fentanyl, according to the city's chief medical examiner.

There have been 1,400 fentanyl-related deaths in the city since 2020, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Last year, in the city's Tenderloin district, the San Francisco Police Department seized more than 65 kilograms, or approximately 144 pounds, of fentanyl.

"With just two milligrams of fentanyl estimated to be a lethal overdose for most people, SFPDʼs drug seizure haul from street-level drug dealers in 2022 represents enough fentanyl to kill every adult in California," Dorsey stated.

Dorsey noted that his proposed legislation takes a "harm-reduction approach" and "draws a hard line on the most lethal street drug."

Even though the proposed legislation would remove sanctuary protections in a limited number of circumstances, Dorsey is already receiving pushback.

FreeSF, a coalition of organizations that advocate for immigrant rights, said it was "deeply disappointed" with Dorsey's proposal.

"Sanctuary policies are crucial to upholding our values of equality and including — and to building strong, safe and flourishing communities for all. The board must recognize that the sanctuary ordinance is an essential part of the solution," FreeSF said.

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