Mayor London Breed Nominates James Byrne to San Francisco Police Commission
Byrne will bring decades of experience as an immigration attorney
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today nominated James Byrne to the San Francisco Police Commission, the seven-member body charged with setting policy for the Police Department and conducting disciplinary hearings when police conduct charges are filed. Byrne was born and raised in San Francisco by Irish immigrant parents and is an attorney who specializes in immigration law. He regularly offers pro bono immigration assistance, advising people from all over the world on their immigration cases.
“I am proud to nominate Jim Byrne to serve on the San Francisco Police Commission,” said Mayor London Breed. “He is an experienced attorney with a proven track record of looking out for the most vulnerable members of our community by offering his time and energy to improve the lives of others. Throughout his career, he has represented people looking for a better life for their families and has helped his clients navigate the complex immigration system. I’m confident that he will bring that integrity and a commitment to supporting underserved communities to the Police Commission.”
“I was born and raised in San Francisco; this is my home. My life’s work has been to work with a myriad of clients, who have immigrated to this City also wanting to make it their home,” said Jim Byrne. “I have always been committed to ensuring that people are given every opportunity to make a life here using the best of our justice system. I am deeply grateful and humbled to be nominated by Mayor Breed to serve on the Police Commission and am committed to utilizing my expertise to bring a different perspective to this work.”
Byrne has decades of experience practicing immigration law. After graduating from law school, he established his own law practice in San Francisco in 1983. His practice of immigration law includes deportation defense, family-based immigration, and employment-based immigration. Throughout the course of his career, Byrne has protected immigrant families from deportation, represented clients in asylum proceedings, and represented thousands of clients from all over the world. Byrne has volunteered once a month for the last 22 years at the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center Immigration Clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District. He also regularly does pro bono work, including representing Mexican and Guatemalan nationals in immigration court.
“As an immigration advocate, I welcome the nomination of Jim Byrne to the San Francisco Police Commission. Jim has spent his career as an immigration attorney representing immigrants within a system that has very often sought to make them less than human,” Celine Kennelly, Executive Director, Irish Immigration Pastoral Center. “He has taken their cases, their voices, their lives to the courts to ensure that they receive just and humane treatment. In a time when relations between our immigrant communities and law enforcement need to be bolstered, Jim will ensure that our sanctuary city laws will be protected and enacted. Jim has a strong moral compass and as a Commissioner will represent the interests of all San Franciscans on this most important of Commissions.”
“It has been a pleasure to have met someone as selfless, humble, and giving as Jim,” said Rogelio Torres, one of Byrne’s clients. “He has prioritized giving back to the community without expecting anything in return as well as seeing people for who they are and not what they have. Over the years I’ve gotten to know him as other than my attorney and would consider him part of my family.”
Byrne was raised in San Francisco’s Excelsior District near McLaren Park and attended Cleveland Elementary School, Epiphany Grammar School, and Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He graduated from UC Davis in 1977, receiving two bachelor’s degrees, one in history and the other in agricultural economics and business management. In 1980, Jim received his Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.
“I applaud Mayor Breed’s nomination of James Byrne to the Police Commission,” said Bill Ong Hing, former San Francisco Police Commissioner, and Professor, Director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, and Dean’s Circle Scholar, University of San Francisco School of Law. “I have known Mr. Byrne for decades. He is open-minded, intelligent, and open to hear all points of view. He also has been a strong, consistent fighter for immigrant rights.”
He is married to Maureen O’Neill, who, as a nurse at the Tom Waddell Clinic in San Francisco, provides healthcare for underserved people in the Tenderloin. They have lived in San Francisco’s Sunset District for the last 36 years.
Byrne’s nomination to the Police Commission comes at an important time for public safely in San Francisco. In June 2020, Mayor Breed announced a roadmap to fundamentally change the nature of policing in San Francisco and issued a set of policies to address structural inequities. She proposed four priorities to achieve this vision: ending the use of police in response to non-criminal activity; addressing police bias and strengthening accountability; demilitarizing the police; and promoting economic justice. These policies build on the City’s ongoing work to meet the standards contained in President Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policing. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, Byrne will oversee the development and implementation of these critical reforms. Mayor Breed’s other nominee for the Police Commission, Larry Yee, will be considered by the Board of Supervisors later today, March 9.