San Francisco Fatal Shooting Galvanizes Anti-Immigrant Movement

  • July 14, 2015

The tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant who had reportedly been deported a number of times, has galvanized the anti-immigrant movement. Groups and figures in the movement are using the killing to rail against immigration reform and so-called sanctuary cities, to announce a proposed boycott of San Francisco and to justify Donald Trump’s bigoted comments against Latinos.

Although there is no legal definition of “sanctuary cities,” some jurisdictions—including San Francisco—have developed policies and practices that decline to honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to hold people found to be in the country without documentation.

This ensures that undocumented immigrants can report crimes, access hospital and other social services, and generally interact with law enforcement and public officials without fear of deportation.  Since the murder in San Francisco, anti-immigrant activists have attacked this practice and have tried to engender fear about all undocumented immigrants.

Dan Stein, the president of the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), wrote a column in which he cited a poll reportedly finding that “most Americans believe illegal immigration is increasing the level of serious crime in the USA” and concluded that “most voters are siding with Donald Trump.”  Stein’s piece rejected the statistics that show that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.

In a column, for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant group, Mark Krikorian, its executive director, bemoans the fact that more Democrats and Republicans have not spoken out against current immigration policies, including sanctuary cities, after the murder.  He also claims that Trump’s “widely mocked warnings of this very danger have been vindicated.”

CIS also created a map of “sanctuary cities, counties and states” which has been touted by other anti-immigrant groups. In addition, CIS released a report in which it claimed that “state and local sanctuary policies caused the release of more than 8,000 criminal alien offenders sought by ICE for deportation…” The organization is asking Congress to pass legislation that will force local jurisdictions to comply with ICE or lose certain federal funding. 

Help Save Maryland, a state anti-immigrant group, capitalized on the Steinle murder to demonize all undocumented immigrants. In an email to supporters calling for an end to sanctuary cities, the group charged that undocumented immigrants “encumber our jobs, pay little to no taxes, bring gang violence…rapes, prostitution, crime and drugs, diseases and more into our Communities.” 

Another anti-immigrant group, The Remembrance Project, whose purpose is to commemorate people killed by undocumented immigrants, has called for a national boycott of the city of San Francisco.  The group claims that “hundreds if not thousands of those dangerous criminals are wandering the streets of San Francisco…secure in the knowledge that they are protected from ICE, thanks to the City’s sanctuary policy.”

NumbersUSA, a grassroots anti-immigrant group, is asking its constituents to donate money so that the organization can work to ban sanctuary cities. In a fundraising letter, the group blamed the city of San Francisco for the Steinle murder and also accused sanctuary cities of “willfully turning a blind eye” while releasing “illegal-alien criminals, many of whom are dangerous felons” into the streets of American cities.


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