“These people are victims of labor trafficking. They are told there are construction jobs in the U.S., then they are trapped and told if they don’t sell drugs the gangs will hurt their family members. …”
— District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen on a proposal to seek the deportation of undocumented immigrants arrested for selling deadly fentanyl
District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, a recovering drug addict himself, is the only member of the Board of Supervisors to call for the deportation of fentanyl dealers. His proposed legislation, announced this past February, would “create a new exception to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies for adults who have been convicted of a fentanyl-dealing felony in the prior seven years, and then held to answer for another fentanyl-dealing felony, a violent felony, or a serious felony subsequently.” The change would allow local law enforcement officials to honor civil immigration detainers from federal authorities “in narrow circumstances” to reflect the gravity of a crime that currently claims more than nine times as many lives as homicide in San Francisco, and that has been solely responsible for nearly three-fourths of all drug overdose deaths citywide since 2020.
A large majority of San Francisco residents agree with Dorsey. According to a poll released in May by EMC Research, a survey of 500 likely voters discovered that 70 percent support revoking sanctuary city protections for undocumented immigrants who are found guilty of dealing fentanyl. Despite the strong feelings of their constituents, however, the other 10 supervisors did not support Dorsey’s proposal. Even District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, who ran on a “tough on crime” platform to oust incumbent Gordon Mar, didn’t back Dorsey. Nor did District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, a former prosecutor known for taking a strong position in favor of recalling former district attorney Chesa Boudin (who saw fentanyl dealers as victims). Siding with her colleagues, Stefani robotically spoke of the importance of the sanctuary law, “which allows victims of serious crimes to feel safe to go to law enforcement.” (That progressive toe-the-line tone could have something to do with Stefani’s plan to run for the state assembly seat currently held by Phil Ting when he terms out in 2024.)
Despite indisputable evidence to the contrary, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen and her husband, Francisco Ugarte (who manages the immigration unit for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office), continue spouting the myth of trafficked drug dealers. “These people are victims of labor trafficking. They are told there are construction jobs in the U.S., then they are trapped and told if they don’t sell drugs the gangs will hurt their family members. … To go after the immigration status of people on the lower end of the totem pole attacks the sacred Sanctuary Ordinance,” Ronen said regarding Dorsey’s proposal.
District 7 supervisor Myrna Melgar, sometimes a wildcard on the Board, noted the Sanctuary City Law “also protects workers, for example day laborers, who may work for two weeks for a boss who then says they aren’t going to get paid — and if they complain, the boss threatens to call the cops and allege that they are drug dealers.” Melgar, of course, cited no evidence to back up her claims.
San Francisco has perhaps the strongest Sanctuary City law in the country, defining the violent felonies ineligible for sanctuary protections as any of the more than two-dozen crimes identified in California Penal Code Section 667.5(c), which includes murder, voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, rape, robbery, arson, attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, or threats to victims or witnesses. Other currently disqualifying felony convictions are for human trafficking, felony assault with a deadly weapon, or crimes involving the use of a firearm, assault weapon, or machine gun. Existing San Francisco law also defines serious felonies that are ineligible for sanctuary protection, which include violent felonies “as well as rape, exploding a destructive device with intent to injure, assault on a person with caustic chemicals or flammable substances, or shooting from a vehicle at a person outside the vehicle or with great bodily injury.”
Most undocumented immigrants are law-abiding, hardworking men and women just trying to raise their families. Sadly, they often live in the very neighborhoods where gangs and drug dealers run the streets and are therefore most affected by the crime and violence that comes with it. By refusing to deport drug dealers, the 10 dissenting supervisors aren’t standing up for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, who are victims of this crisis along with those it kills (in 2022, San Francisco had 620 drug overdose deaths, 72 percent of which involved fentanyl).
ONLY ONE HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASE IN S.F.
Since far-left “progressives” like Ronen and her husband, Ugarte, chant the “fentanyl dealers are victims of human trafficking by coyotes in Honduras” mantra constantly, I decided to do a public records request with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. What I found should put an end to their claims once and for all: Since 2020, there has only been one human trafficking case charged in San Francisco, and the victim is a nanny, not a drug dealer.
In Dec. of 2022, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins charged married couple Jose Aguila and Lorraine Lim with five felony counts related to human trafficking and three misdemeanor labor code violations stemming from an investigation into the working conditions of Aguila and Lim’s nanny, identified as “Nicel R.”
The suspects brought Nicel R. from the Philippines to the United States, “forcing her to work seven days a week caring for their disabled child in addition to other forced labor in and outside of the home.” While Nicel R. was told it would only be for three months, the couple kept her here for two-and-a-half years, isolating her by “remaining in possession of her passport, restricting her from having friends or cell service, and controlling and monitoring her ability to leave the home/workplace.”
NATIONAL TRAFFICKING NUMBERS
According to the U.S. Department of State’s “2022 Trafficking in Persons Report: Honduras,” the government investigated a total of 148 trafficking cases involving Hondurans in 2021: “64 cases for sex trafficking and related crimes, five cases for forced labor, and 79 cases of unspecified exploitation.” Forced labor victims included “22 women, 14 men, nine boys, six girls, and two LGBTQI+ persons whose gender and age were not specified.”
So, if the United States government identified a total of five forced labor trafficking cases involving 53 Hondurans in all of 2021, and San Francisco has charged just one human trafficking case since 2020, which had nothing to do with fentanyl dealing, it’s safe to say that dealers are here of their own free will.
For more than a decade I’ve written about San Francisco officials and their sheep-like behavior on controversial legislation. When it comes to taking a hard line on deadly fentanyl dealers, they once again proved me right, with one exception. Politicians follow the herd, while leaders are lone wolves. Right now, the only leader I see is Matt Dorsey.
At Mayor London Breed’s March 7, 2023, press conference urging the Board of Supervisors to approve a $27 million budget supplement for police overtime and recruitment, a few hecklers booed when Dorsey took the podium. “I make no apologies that I am fighting for the lives of drug addicts and not the livelihoods of drug dealers,” he responded. It’s a shame his fellow policymakers don’t feel the same.
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