How to file a Sanctuary City Ordinance Complaint



What is the Sanctuary City Ordinance?

In 1989, San Francisco passed the "City and County of Refuge" Ordinance (also known as the Sanctuary City Ordinance). The Sanctuary City Ordinance generally prohibits City employees from using City funds or resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of Federal immigration law unless such assistance is required by federal or state law.

In 2013, San Francisco passed the “Due Process for All” Ordinance. This ordinance limits when City law enforcement officers may give ICE advance notice of a person’s release from local jail. It also prohibits cooperation with ICE detainer requests, sometimes referred to as “ICE holds.” 

These ordinances were last amended in July 2016. Under current law, City employees may not use City resources to:

  • Assist or cooperate with any ICE investigation, detention, or arrest relating to alleged violations of the civil provisions of federal immigration law.
  • Ask about immigration status on any application for City benefits, services, or opportunities, except as required by federal or state statute, regulation, or court decision.
  • Limit City services or benefits based on immigration status, unless required by federal or state statute or regulation, public assistance criteria, or court decision.
  • Provide information about the release status or personal information of any individual, except in limited circumstances when law enforcement may respond to ICE requests for notification about when an individual will be released from custody.
  • Detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody.

HRC is charged with implementing the Sanctuary City Ordinance by assisting the public in filing, mediating, and investigating complaints of non-compliance with the ordinance.

Sanctuary City

The view the Sanctuary City Ordinance in its entirety, choose from the following translations:

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 How do I file a Complaint under the Sanctuary City Ordinance?


Step 1: Contact the Human Rights Commission by telephone at (415) 252.2500 or by email at, or visit our office at 25 Van Ness Avenue, 8th floor.
Step 2: Schedule an intake interview and bring any documentation supporting the claim.

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What happens after I file a complaint under the Sanctuary City Ordinance?

Depending on the nature of the case, a letter of concern or a formal complaint is sent to the respondent (department, agency, or commission), who will be required to respond in writing. After the respondent’s response is received, an HRC staff member will attempt to resolve the complaint through mediation. The mediation can occur with all parties in the same room or through separate meetings with the mediator. If mediation is successful and both parties reach an agreement, the HRC will close the case. If mediation fails or is rejected by one or all parties, an HRC staff may conduct a formal investigation. If there is sufficient evidence of a violation, the HRC may issue a Director’s Finding of Non-Compliance with the SCO. Upon making a Director's Finding, the HRC can forward it to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office.  A Director’s Finding may be appealed by the non-prevailing party to the HRC. Please contact the HRC for further information on the appeal process.

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 Can I remain anonymous through complaint process?

Yes, a complainant may choose to remain anonymous through out the complaint process.

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Will I be required to pay any fees to file a complaint?

No, all services pursuant to this process are free and confidential.

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Who do I contact for more information or to file a complaint?

 For more information about the Sanctuary City Ordinance or to file a complaint, please contact the Human Rights Commission by telephone at (415) 252.2500 or by email at, or visit our office at 25 Van Ness Avenue, 8th floor.

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