SAN FRANCISCO, June 29 (UPI) -- San Francisco juvenile probation officials are protecting Honduran youths caught dealing crack cocaine from possible deportation, federal officials say.
Citing the city's sanctuary city status for illegal immigrants, probation officials have even given some offenders a city-paid flight home, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
Rather than have young drug offenders deported, probation officials have recommended that Juvenile Court judges and commissioners approve city-paid flights home to Honduras for the offenders with the aim of reuniting them with their families.
Officials familiar with the case said the city is being investigated for systematically circumventing federal immigration law.
"Our job is to uphold the nation's immigration laws," said Greg Palmore, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Although San Francisco is a sanctuary city, it's a problem whenever someone attempts to evade the law. ... Our law does not allow us to turn a blind eye to any individual who has come into this country illegally."
City officials say they are trying to balance their obligations under federal and state law with local court orders and San Francisco's policies aimed at protecting the rights of the young immigrants, who they say are often victims of exploitation.