The July 1 shooting of Katheryn Steinle by Juan Francisco Lopez was truly a tragedy. Early reports indicate it was potentially a terrible accident where anyone at the wrong place and at the wrong time could have found themselves at the center of it. Those details will be answered in court, but lack of them has not stopped opportunists from both major political parties to come out of the woodwork to exploit the situation for short-sighted political gain.
Reactionary response is something we’ve come to expect from Republicans like Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE and Rep. Steve King (Iowa). But the response from California’s Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE worry us most. They’ve turned the hateful rhetoric into policy proposals that threaten to fill prisons and trample on the constitutional rights of millions of immigrants to a degree demagogues like Trump could only dream of.
When the public reaction to the incident first started, we stayed quiet. We believed that a family should be able to mourn without their suffering being manipulated or put in the public eye. Even when Trump, Clinton, and others started equating the act of one person with all of us, we wanted to honor the tragedy for what it is and not feed into the frenzy.
But now that the senators are holding hearings and proposing policies, they are threatening all of our families. And we will not allow that to happen.
We will not be your scapegoat.
When a young white man deliberately walks into a church and murders black parishioners to instigate race war, there is no sweeping legislative response. When black churches burn across the South, the media speculates if it’s caused by faulty wiring. When a black person is killed by law enforcement, security, or vigilante every 28 hours, politicians hesitate to respond with even a hashtag.
But when incidents reinforce stereotypes or serve prejudiced agendas, we’ve seen bipartisan readiness to act. One person’s actions are used to judge entire races of people and one family’s loss is exploited to break apart thousands of others.
In the wake of tragedy, it is always hard to find a way forward. But dividing our communities is never the answer. We need solutions that bring us more closely together as a whole and serve our best interests not our worst fears.
Policies like what Feinstein is proposing are the cause of California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance members having empty seats at their family’s meals. Marcela and her cousins haven’t seen her uncle in five years after he was deported for a drug offense; Adrian and his siblings can only see their deported parents through a computer screen. Policies like these are the reason the majority of middle school youth who attended OC Immigrant Youth United’s summer program are deeply fearful of police officers, and intimately aware of the consequences of collaborations between local police and ICE.
We can’t begin to understand what the Steinle family is going through. But we do know deeply the harm and the sorrow that U.S. deportation policy has inflicted on our own. We’ve worked hard to heal from the traumas caused by growing up in a country that threatens to take away our loved ones at any moment. Feinstein’s proposal would undo that healing but it won’t prevent any future incidents because it’s a false solution. We won’t allow ourselves to be scapegoated, and thankfully in this case, neither will the constitution her proposal would shred to pieces.
Ojeda is the statewide coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, a network of thirteen immigrant youth-led organizations from San Diego to Sonoma County. Garcia is a student at Segerstrom High School, a member of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United, and a Steering Committee member of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.