Updated Tuesday 6/23: The San Francisco Chronicle gets further into the details today on what supposedly happened when Izaguirre was let into the Back on Track program, and reports that the DA then identified six other apparently illegal immigrants among the program's participants. Updated Wednesday 6/24: Harris speaks about this whole thing, in another Chron story.
District Attorney Kamala Harris’ press team must be cringing. In an article published in today’s Los Angeles Times, reporter Michael Finnegan puts Harris’ pet program, Back on Track, through the wringer, determining that it has given illegal immigrant drug dealers a chance at job training and a clean record. Harris, who is running for state attorney general, has held Back on Track up as a smart alternative to traditional criminal justice.
Finnegan opens the LAT article with this example:
A stranger, later identified as Alexander Izaguirre, snatched [Amanda Kiefer’s] purse and hopped into an SUV, police say. The driver sped forward to run Kiefer down. Terrified, she leaped onto the hood and saw Izaguirre and the driver laughing. The driver slammed on the brakes, propelling Kiefer to the pavement. Her skull fractured. Blood oozed from her ear.
Only after the July 2008 attack did Kiefer learn of the crime's political ramifications. Izaguirre, police told her, was an illegal immigrant who had pleaded guilty four months earlier to a drug felony for selling cocaine in the seedy Tenderloin area.
He had avoided prison when he was picked for a jobs program run by San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris ...
Read the jump and ponder as we do: What's the "right" response on immigration questions for a statewide prosecutor-hopeful, anyway? It's tricky ...
Finnegan explores what is, in retrospect, an obvious question, given the ongoing controversy over San Francisco’s sanctuary policies: If Harris’ Back on Track is meant to rehabilitate “low-level” drug dealers, how many illegal immigrants wound up in the program? It’s like a Sesame Street question, but with cocaine.
Finnegan’s story doesn’t give a precise answer, and it doesn’t look like the DA’s office gave him much help pinning down the statistics. But Finnegan does get a Goodwill employee who monitors those in the program to say that he thinks fewer than a dozen illegal immigrants were ever enrolled. (The DA’s office also declined to elaborate on recidivism stats in the story, though Harris’ city and campaign Web sites have suggested that fewer than 10 percent of the program’s graduates reoffend.)
In the middle of the article is the revelation that once Harris discovered that illegal immigrants had enrolled in Back on Track, she still let them finish the program and (presumably) get their criminal records cleared. Some were allowed to graduate before the usual 12 months.
It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she told the LAT, to enforce federal immigration laws. "My issue was more, what are we going to do to prevent this from happening in the future?" she said.
— Evan Hill