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Roughly 40 people rallied at the 1 Post St. headquarters of Diane Feinstein in response to the senator’s proposed legislation that activists say will violate San Francisco’s “Sanctuary City” and “Due Process for All” policies, as well as destroying trust between the immigrant community and local police.
“It all felt really surreal,” said Bismark Torrez, who was arrested along with seven other demonstrators after they chained themselves two-by-two on the lobby floor of at 1 Post St. “The whole time I was really pissed, just because of how Feinstein and [Barbara] Boxer are trying criminalize us in the community for one person’s actions.”
The bill, which Feinstein called a “work-in-progress” during a July 21 Senate Committee hearing, was crafted in reaction to the highly publicized death of Kathryn Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who was killed on July 1 in San Francisco by undocumented Mexican national and convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Feinstein met Steinle’s father Jim, who was present at the Senate hearing.
In the wake of Steinle’s death, Feinstein has also called for San Francisco to join the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which would enable the DHS to work with state and local authorities to take custody of “convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety.”
Feinstein has been criticized by activists and the immigrant community, who claim that she along with right-wing politicians are using this moment of tragedy to scapegoat the immigrants.
“The Democrats have definitely shown that they don’t have the spine,” said Luis Ojeda, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) statewide coordinator. “They’ve been willing to just cave to Republicans and anti-immigrant individuals like Donald Trump.”
Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, an immigrant rights organizer with Causa Justa, who also attended the rally, argued that politicians and conservative media are using Stienle’s death to criminalize the immigrant community, which allows them to ignore the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.
CIYJA was among the various other organizations that crashed the lobby of Feinstein’s headquarters.
“I had tried to meet with a staff member last week and they just dismissed my questions and were not really listening to my concerns,” said Sandy Valenciano, an organizer with CIYJA who was one of the eight arrested on two misdemeanor counts of trespassing. “They didn’t even allow me to go up to their office, they came to meet with me in the lobby.”
Wei Lee, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from Brazil who is ethnic Chinese, has been living in San Francisco for 10 years and echoed Esteva-Martinez and Bismark’s concerns.
“People pin all of this anti-immigrant sentiment on one incident. But there are facts that say immigrants commit less crimes compared to people born here,” Lee said. “So this is another thing to push the anti-immigrant agenda.”