Undocumented worker sues San Francisco for violating sanctuary law

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - An undocumented immigrant from El Salvador is suing San Francisco alleging police violated the city's sanctuary city policy by turning him over to U.S. immigration authorities after he reported his car stolen.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday on behalf of Pedro Figueroa Zarceno, 32, in federal court in San Francisco against the city and its police chief for violating his right to due process and breaking an ordinance barring municipal employees from cooperating with federal immigration authorities seeking to deport a person.

Figueroa walked into a police station in November 2015 to report his car stolen, according to the lawsuit. Two days later, the car was found and when he went to recover it, he was handcuffed and led outside where federal immigration agents were waiting for him, the lawsuit said.

The civil action comes as San Francisco and dozens of other U.S. cities face pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Friday, to abandon their policies of limiting cooperation between law enforcement officers and U.S. immigration authorities.

"We'll obviously have to review the lawsuit before we can comment on it," John Cote, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney, said by phone. "That being said, San Francisco has strong policies in place to encourage victims and witnesses to report crimes without fear of being deported."

The incident occurred about five months after an undocumented immigrant was charged with murder in the shooting of a woman at a San Francisco pier.

The shooting drew nationwide attention because the alleged killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was previously arrested on a drug charge and released from jail months before the shooting, despite a request from federal officials that he be held until they could pick him up. Sanchez has pleaded not guilty.

Figueroa's attorney, Saira Hussain of the nonprofit group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said by phone it was a "possibility" that officers arrested her client because they were influenced by the controversy over the Sanchez case.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Alan Crosby)