Latina ten-year legal resident recounts horror
story of police encounter
By Pat Murphy
August 24, 2006
A legal defense network for immigrants fearful America has turned
inward was launched in San Francisco yesterday, presenting an
unnamed legal resident with a local horror story to tell.
She presented herself as a ten-year resident of San Francisco
humiliated by a San Francisco Police officer based on racial profiling.
Photo(s) by Stephen Dorian
Intermittently in tears, she said the incident left her afraid
to go outside.
Others told of similar police encounters in a City Hall press
conference unveiling the Immigrant Rights Network structured by
Legal Outreach, formerly known as Nihonmachi Legal Outreach.
The network has filed a complaint against the police officer
with the San Francisco Office of Citizens Complaints, reported
API Legal Outreach director Victor Hwang.
The woman was stopped by an officer for alleged jaywalking and
interrogated "regarding her immigration status and subjected
to demeaning comments over her level of English proficiency,"
She detailed the incident in a private meeting with media which
agreed not to reveal her identify. The group did not name the
"I heard someone yelling at me on a microphone and I turned
around and saw that it was a police officer," the Guatemala
native said through an interpreter.
"I stayed put not knowing what to do.
"He came up to me and said, 'Do you have your papers or
do you want to go to jail?'
"He asked me how long I had been in this country and I said
I had been here ten years.
"He questioned why I didn't speak English better if I had
lived in this country for that long.
"I apologized for not speaking English well.
"He didn't accept my apology - 'It's not about being sorry.
You need to learn English,'" she related his response.
The street crossing light had turned green when she crossed the
street, she asserted, and the $119 ticket would cause financial
hardship, she said she told the officer.
"I told the officer, 'I'm on disability so it is going to
be very difficult for me to pay the ticket and he said, 'Well
then you'll just have to go to jail.'"
"So when I went to 850 Bryant I am very scared."
She paid the ticket August 24, she told reporters. Now represented
by an attorney, a court hearing is scheduled in September, she
"I'm afraid to go out onto the streets.
"I feel in my heart that it's unjust that latino immigrants
... are being treated in this way and intimidated in this way,
and I have papers and I feel scared like that and I know that
many in my community do not have the same status that I do."
Immigrants are often unaware of existing legal protections, one
member of a legal assistance agency stated.
"You have rights," Anamaria Loya of La
Raza Centro Legal pointed out.
"You have rights under our constitution and you have rights
in this City.
"You have a right not to be harassed based on your immigration
"You have a right to not answer the police about your immigration
status. It is none of their business where you were born or what
your immigration status is.
"You have the right to remain silent. You have the right
to an attorney."
Loya urged immigrants to reach out for legal assistance.
"If you find yourselves facing law enforcement officers
and you need support - you need immigrants rights advocates, you
need attorneys, people in the community to back you up - you have
"La Raza Central Legal offers our support to our immigrant
brothers and sisters... call us at 415-575-3500."
An elected official representing the Mission District's large
immigrant population said San Francisco has a history of valuing
"I think we are up to the challenge because immigrant rights,
full equality for immigrants, is a clearly a San Francisco value,"
stated District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly.
Supervisor Chris Daly
"It's not only built into the history of this City but the
everyday reality where literally 40% of San Franciscans were born
in a country other than the United States of America - we are
truly an international City.
"We are truly a City of immigrants both second, third, fourth
generation as well as actually immigrants in a near majority in
"We will continue... to legislate in order to ensure full
rights for immigrants in San Francisco."
The new City budget "earmarked $1 million to prepare for
attacks coming down from the federal government, to prepare for
the types of incidents that we're seeing here today in a pro-active
way to protect immigrant rights," Daly noted.
A latina community leader warned of "federal legislation
that is still pending which would among other things take entire
communities and turn them into aggravated felons causing local
enforcement to continue racial profiling, detaining and arresting
"That legislation would gut the San Francisco City of Refuge
Ordinance which we currently require local law enforcement to
respect," reported Renee Saucedo, director of the San Francisco
based Day Labor Program.
Saucedo announced a September 4 San Francisco march demanding
immigrant rights in conjunction with nationwide protests set Labor
"Here in San Francisco a regional coalition are very proud
to announce our march on September 4," continued Saucedo.
"We invite everyone who cares about this issue to please
come out on Monday, September 4, at 10:00 a.m. and we will be
meeting at Embarcadero Justin Herman Plaza."
The API Immigrant Network also partners with St. Peter's Housing
Committee, telephone 415-487-9203.