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Morning Report: Crush of New Criminal Immigration Cases Is Wreaking Havoc in Court

The Edward J. Schwartz federal courthouse building in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The transition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” immigration prosecution policy has been rough on the federal courts in San Diego.

Court has been running late, defense attorneys are having trouble accessing defendants and the U.S. Marshals are transporting defendants 90 minutes to and from a jail in Santa Ana because there’s not enough room for them in San Diego. At least one judge has ordered that defendants should appear in full shackles in order to address safety concerns and staffing shortages.

In April, Sessions renewed a push to use increased prosecutions of immigration-related crimes to deter unauthorized immigration. Specifically, he sent a memo to U.S. attorneys along the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing the use of illegal entry misdemeanor charges, even against those who are caught illegally crossing for the first time.

Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, prosecutors filed thousands of these misdemeanors. But since 1994, prosecutors in the Southern District of California have largely opted to focus on felony charges and leave those who could only be charged with misdemeanors for immigration officials.

Now the policy has flip-flopped again. Some of the U.S. attorneys who worked under the previous system say prosecuting everyone simply isn’t a sustainable policy.

Civic San Diego Has a New Leader

The city’s downtown development agency has an interim president more than a month after embattled chief Reese Jarrett’s retirement.

More from Lisa Halverstadt: Civic’s board voted Wednesday to have COO Andrew Phillips take the helm while Mayor Kevin Faulconer mulls plans for a permanent replacement. A mayor’s office spokeswoman said Faulconer’s team is working with the Civic board on a recruitment process expected to kick off this fall. Faulconer will ultimately decide who should lead the agency.

Jarrett abruptly announced he planned to retire in February following a slew of concerns raised by the Civic employee tasked with overseeing the agency’s contracting process and elsewhere.

Within weeks of Jarrett’s departure, Civic received a nearly $79,000 report from an outside investigator. The agency has refused to comment or release the investigation to Voice, citing privacy and attorney-client privilege. Our attorney on Wednesday sent Civic a letter urging the agency to release the document.

The agency’s future remains unclear amid continued closed-door settlement negotiations between the city and former Civic San Diego board member Murtaza Baxamusa, who filed suit against Civic in hopes of reshaping the nonprofit.

Housing Has to Go Somewhere

Public discussions about housing developments are often dominated by homeowners who tend not to want more units in their backyard. A new group in Encinitas is trying to change that. Keys4Homes is mobilizing seniors, artists, workers and others in need of affordable housing to share their stories at public meetings.

Speaking of homeowners who don’t want more units in their backyard, Shawn VanDiver writes in an op-ed that he’s disappointed in his Clairemont neighbors for opposing a project that would include supportive housing units. He argues that passing the responsibility for our homeless and affordable housing crises onto other communities solves nothing. “Challenges of this magnitude require that every neighborhood does its part,” he writes.

A homeless encampment under a Friars Road bridge in Mission Valley / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Also on Wednesday, homeless advocate Michael McConnell released a letter requesting that HUD not certify the recently released count of homeless people in San Diego without further investigation. “People living in recreational vehicles on the streets were not included in this year’s results, despite being counted,” he said.

In other development news, the San Diego City Council approved a 72-acre project on vacant land near Rancho Peñasquitos. Plans call for a more densely built, walkable community, according to the Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile in Lemon Grove, officials denied a zoning change that would have allowed a developer to provide more housing to the homeless, veterans and seniors. Earlier this month, the city nixed a plan that had been in the works for more than a decade allowing for more housing and development downtown.

In Other News

  • The Del Mar fairgrounds has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the father and son who operate the Crossroads of the West Gun Show. Felony convictions for federal firearms violations could prevent them from organizing gun shows in California. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego native Tony Hawk tweeted out old photos of him skateboarding in the White House in 2009. He got some grief for it at the time (even though he got permission and nothing was broken). “I don’t regret it & would do it again,” he said, “but I doubt it would make the news cycle anymore.”
  • A new Republican Super PAC is trying to block Democrats from getting a candidate through the June 5 primary in some key Southern California House races — including the 49th Congressional District. (Talking Points Memo)

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Maya Srikrishnan and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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