Immigrant, civil rights groups offer prayers in wake of tragic shooting, call for dialogue

[July 14 | Asian Law Caucus Press Advisory] Today, immigrant, faith, and civil rights groups gathered at the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall for a news conference that began with the offering of prayers and condolences for Kathryn Steinle and her family.

Father Richard Smith of St. John the Evangelist Church in the Mission stated, “Of the many things we say here today, our first and last word is Love. Love for a beautiful young woman who is no longer among us, and love for her beautiful and loving family.”

Participants held white carnations on the City Hall steps for the duration of the event to symbolize their prayers and condolences.

Sandy Valenciano of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance expressed sadness at efforts by anti–immigrant voices to use the tragedy to criminalize entire communities which are part of the state’s fabric, and called upon local, state, and national leaders to engage in thoughtful dialogue.

Several community leaders also spoke to the importance of upholding Constitutional protections and ensuring that immigrants — including survivors of domestic violence — can work with local law enforcement.

Walda Correa shared that after calling police for help, she was wrongly arrested and then turned over to immigration officials, despite being the victim of a crime. Immigration officials sent her to a detention facility in Texas, where she remained for over a month, far from her children. “Now, I can call police if I need help or need to report a crime,” she said.

Echoing Walda’s experience, a 2013 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that “44 percent of Latinos surveyed reported they are less likely to contact police officers if they have been the victim of a crime because they fear that police officers will use this interaction as an opportunity to inquire into their immigration status or that of people they know.”

With much attention zeroing in on the issue of immigration “holds,” Dr. Bill Ong Hing, an immigration law expert and Professor at USF School of Law, provided an important clarification: a federal court found such holds unconstitutional last year, in the case of Miranda-Olivares vs. Clackamas. Immigration officials can respect the Constitution by going before a judge and obtaining a warrant. 

Pastor Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies and LiveFree campaign PICO network, commented: “Public safety is not solely the absence of crime, but it also is the presence of justice. So we must resist those who are fear-mongering and appealing to the worst part of ourselves, seeking to use this tragedy as a tool to divide us. Rather we must come together and stand with all who are victimized by violence and the immigrant communities who some are trying to criminalize. We can stand with both the grieving family and immigrant communities.”

To close the event, participants placed the white carnations into a single bouquet. 

Kitzia Esteva of Causa Justa::Just Cause served as the MC.

Participating organizations included: Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, ASPIRE, Causa Justa::Just Cause, California Immigrant Youth Justice Allliance, California Immigrant Policy Center; Centro Legal de la Raza, Community United Against Violence, Dolores Street Community Services, Drug Policy Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, La Raza Centro Legal, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Pangea Legal Services, San Francisco Organizing Project, PICO CA, and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.

Additional information: