Abel Maldonando

James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/26/2010 05:27:34 PM PDT

Two years ago, youth probation officials in San Francisco sent teenage illegal immigrants to group homes in San Bernardino County, but never notified San Bernardino County officials.

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who is running for re-election to that position against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the incident – which caused a stir when the immigrants fled their group homes – and San Francisco’s response are evidence of a lack of leadership and responsibility on Newsom’s part.

“It’s saying, `We have a problem in our city, so let’s send them off and make them someone else’s problem,” Maldonado said Tuesday during a news conference in San Bernardino, flanked by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and state Sens. Bill Emmerson, R-Riverside, and Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga. “That’s not leadership. It’s irresponsible and it’s dangerous.”

Newsom campaign spokesman Francisco Castillo called those comments “desperate false attacks designed to divert attention from (Maldonado’s) record on education, the environment, taxes and the dozens of Cal/OSHA violations that his business has accumulated since 1990, putting at risk the safety of his workers.”

It’s not uncommon for probationers from one county to go to another county, but local officials and Maldonado said San Bernardino County residents should take special umbrage to the 2008 incident both because county officials weren’t notified and, in this case, the probationers were illegal immigrants.

“There was no notification, no courtesy extended to the district attorney’s office,” Dutton said. “That type of practice has to stop.”

But San Francisco Chief Probation Officer William Siffermann said the lack of notification was “an aberration” and that the city’s policy is to always notify other counties about probationers.

But because the teens were illegal immigrants, Ramos said it never should have reached that point.

“What should have happened is that they were turned over to the feds,” Ramos said. “They shouldn’t be using us as a dumping ground.”

Maldonado said San Francisco officials, Newsom included, “avoided the law” and “thumbed their nose at the law.”

But the Newsom campaign said it’s not fair to pin the city’s “sanctuary” policy – which seeks to shield illegal immigrants from deportation – on Newsom because the policy predated his time in office. Before the San Bernardino County incident, Newsom had discontinued a city policy that called for flying juvenile illegal immigrants back to their home countries rather than handing them over to federal officials.

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