Immigrants are fearing backlash following the killing of a 31-year-old white woman on a busy San Francisco pier on July 1 by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported from the country multiple times. Republican presidential hopefuls, most forcefully Donald Trump, have trumpeted the killing as evidence for stricter immigration policies, creating anxiety in the immigrant community.
Katie Steinle's slaying at San Francisco's Pier 14 by Juan Francisco López Sánchez has led to amped-up rhetoric targeting the population of immigrants in the United States. "This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately," Trump said in a statement on Friday. Trump has previously described undocumented immigrants from Mexico as "rapists" and "killers."
Many immigrants are worried that Americans will see the violent crime as a marker for all the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and demand more deportations. "We have lived here for years and yet we are considered violent and are treated like the worst in society even when we work hard and try and make a better life for ourselves and our families," María Salazar, 32, an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco who has lived in the United States for almost 12 years, told the Guardian.
Crime rates have fallen in the United States even as the immigrant population grew between 1990 and 2010, according to research from the Immigration Policy Center reported by CNN. But some immigrants fear they have been portrayed negatively by the media.
"I see what is happening and I really see what people are saying is very racist and doesn't understand why people come to the U.S.," Miguel Sosa, 27, who overstayed his visa and recently obtained a green card after eight years of processing, told the Guardian.
The Department of Homeland Security has decreased the number of deportations in recent years under the Obama administration. Immigration officials are now only supposed to target convicted criminals, terrorism threats and those who recently crossed the border.
"I am just a young woman working and living in America," Salazar told the Guardian. "Should I then be accused of being a bad person or whatever nonsense is said about me and others just because I don't have the right paper?"