The story of Luis Laguna, the man from Staten Island, New York, who rescued 20 people during Hurricane Sandy, is not very well-known. The same goes for Antonio Chacón’s, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, man who risked his life to prevent a child’s kidnapping. No politician has ever brought them on stage at a rally as an example of the acts of valor many undocumented people have performed. However, the relatives of people murdered or run over by undocumented immigrants are often seen standing next to campaigners.
On the other hand, the name and likeness of Juan Francisco López-Sánchez became well known. A year ago, the undocumented man – who had been previously convicted of 7 crimes and deported 5 times – allegedly killed a woman named Kate Steinle in San Francisco. The felon had been released by the city’s sheriff as a result of the lack of collaboration between local and immigration authorities, who were following their own interpretations of “sanctuary city.”
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s bad decision led to López-Sánchez’s release. The officer was soon voted out by residents, partly because of this case. Ten months later, the Board of Supervisors confirmed the city’s sanctuary policy by appointing a sheriff with very different views from Mirkarimi’s. The problem stemmed from the officer’s misinterpretation of the rule, not from the rule itself.
Senators such as Ted Cruz, who turned persecuting undocumented people into one of the pillars of his failed presidential campaign, took advantage of this case. For its part, the Senate, capitalizing on the opportunity to exploit resentment against undocumented people to attract voters, will make a decision in the next few days about measures ranging from cutting federal funding to more than 200 sanctuary cities in the country to imposing a mandatory 5-year sentence for illegal reentry into the U.S.
How many fathers and mothers will go to jail for coming back in to be with their families?
Any opposition to these measures on the part of police departments – who worry that undocumented people will refrain from reporting crimes for fear of being deported – is futile. In this case, politicians are saying that they know more about public safety than the Police themselves.
Most undocumented people have more in common with Laguna and Chacón than with López-Sánchez. However, this reality does not serve the odious political discourse that fosters confrontation by demonizing immigrants. Because they do not fit their narrative, the lives saved are of no importance to these senators.