S.F. immigrant advocates call for 'sober' dialogue in wake of killing

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Each speaker reiterated an undisputed fact: The fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kate Steinle on San Francisco's Embarcadero is a tragedy.

One by one, immigrants and immigrant rights advocates stepped to the lectern on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday and offered condolences. They spoke of also losing loved ones, and they vowed to "hold up" the Steinle family in their time of pain and grief.

They held white carnations in Steinle's name, offering private prayers as they gathered them in a vase.

Beneath the tone of respect was a plea: that officials in this longtime sanctuary city and across the country dial down the rhetoric on immigration enforcement and engage in "sober" dialogue that "protects all communities."

"I am undocumented," Sandy Valenciano told the gathered crowd. "My earliest memories are of the fear my parents carried whenever they saw a cop car approach."

The core principle of sanctuary, she and others said, is helping immigrants who are here without documents feel safe enough to cooperate with the police, report crimes and step forward as witnesses.

Valenciano immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with her family in 1993,  when she was 4 years old. She now works with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.

"We are keeping the family in our thoughts and prayers," she said, "and we ask that we all ... come together in solidarity to find a solution."

She and others reiterated support for the Due Process for All ordinance, passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee in late 2013.

The ordinance restricted cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers -- requests that inmates be held for pickup and possible deportation -- except when an inmate has been held to answer for a violent felony and committed another within the past seven years.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez -- the five-time deportee who has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in the Steinle shooting -- did not fall into that category.

The Sheriff's Department released him from custody in April without honoring a request from ICE that they detain him for pickup. Steinle was shot July 1, allegedly by Lopez-Sanchez, who admitted to accidentally discharging a weapon he said he had found on the ground.

But his name was not mentioned here on Tuesday.

Walda Correa, a Honduran immigrant who was held for deportation in Texas after reporting to police that she had been the victim of domestic violence, said there "aren't words to describe" the pain the Steinle family must be feeling.

But in San Francisco, Correa said she found a sense of trust in the police -- along with legal assistance -- that she fears could be lost.

 "We cannot because of the actions of one person change the law in a way that affects thousands," she implored. "We have to remember why we passed laws like the one we did in San Francisco."

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