SAN FRANCISCO — State Attorney General Jerry Brown has denied the San Francisco sheriff's request to opt out of a federal program that checks the immigration status of all people arrested using their fingerprints.

Brown told the sheriff in a letter Tuesday that he believed the program would help speed the identification of individuals in the country illegally who have a history of serious crimes.

"I think this program serves both public safety and the interest of justice," Brown said in the letter.

Sheriff Michael Hennessey asked Brown last week not to share the city's fingerprint data with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, known as Secure Communities.

Hennessey said the federal Secure Communities program conflicted with a city policy that requires law enforcement to report only those born outside the U.S. who are booked for felonies.

"I am disappointed in the attorney general's position and concerned that U.S. citizens and minor offenders will be caught up in the broader net represented by Secure Communities," Hennessey said.

The sheriff said he would be studying the issue further to see how the program could be applied in the spirit of San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, which prohibits city employees from aiding federal immigration investigators unless required by state or federal law.


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San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar had introduced a nonbinding resolution set to be voted on Tuesday urging city law enforcement agencies not to participate in the Secure Communities program.

Mar's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.