The Blog

Kathryn Steinle's Murder: Personal Tragedy and Immigration Reform

The death of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot in San Francisco's Embarcadero, has shocked the nation. Not only has it become a personal tragedy but is also being used as a driving factor in the long-divisive political debate about how to reform the nation's immigration system.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The death of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1, 2015 in San Francisco's Embarcadero, has shocked the nation. Not only has it become a personal tragedy but is also being used as a driving factor in the long-divisive political debate about how to reform the nation's immigration system. Francisco Sanchez, who is charged with killing Kathryn, is a Mexican national who, according to the Los Angeles Times, has been convicted of seven felonies and been deported five times. Although it has been less than a month since his daughter's senseless death, Kathryn's father has testified before the Senate and House judiciary committees in favor of laws that would restrict federal funds for sanctuary cities such as San Francisco.

In his broadcast on Monday July 26, 2015, Bill O'Reilly talked about how this family tragedy could be used to personalize and change the immigration laws. He praised the dignity of the Steinle family and their crusade to make meaning out of their daughter's tragic death. When my son Scott was killed in an automobile accident in 1983, a reporter and her assistant from the local news station came to our house and turned on the tape recorder. Over the course of the next couple of hours, she interviewed me, my husband and our friends. Then for the next week our local radio show played selected segments of our very personal comments. We of course wanted to talk. We wanted to make our child count. We weren't ready to give up our boy. When we talk about our dead children it is as though they are still here. Talking to bereaved parents whose kids have been killed in schools, movie theaters and on the street is a delicate balance leaving one to question how the press gets the news without exploiting the bereaved. Families who have suffered a very personal loss are often caught up in the 24-hour news cycle and story of the day. But what will it look like for them in the future?

On our "Open to Hope" radio show with Candace Lightner, founder of Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD), we discussed the hit-and-run death by a drunk driver of her daughter, Cari. At the time, drunk drivers even when there was a death merely got a "slap on the wrist". Candice talked about how she spent three years testifying before congress and working to pass new legislation. That was the public Candace, a hero to us all. She also said that her advice to anyone who has suffered a loss is to make sure you grieve that loss when it happens. After her bill was passed, she went home and in the privacy of her family she "began the grieving process." She said it was a very painful time as her friends and family had moved on.

It is going to be a very long road for the Steinles as they will not only grieve the loss of their beautiful daughter, but will become involved in a trial and possibly parole hearings for years to come. Let's make sure that we do not set them up to be bigger than life heroes, but as fellow human beings who have suffered the ultimate loss and are trying to find some good from this terrible tragedy. Let us be gentle, kind, caring and understanding as they deal with both a public and personal persona. Let us remember that grieving the death of a child often leads to unpredictable responses not only from the bereaved, but also for those who interact with them. It is my hope that the Steinle's and others who have suffered the loss of their child will seek and find support in their grieving process. Below are some organizations who offer support to those who have suffered the death of a child:
  • The Compassionate Friends: A peer support organization for those who have lost a child, sibling or grandchild.
  • Bereaved Parents of the USA: A Nation-wide organization dedicated to helping parents and families who have lost children in life.
  • POMC : The National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.
  • NOVA The National Association of Victims Advocates
  • Open to Hope Foundation: One of the world's largest grief recovery sites including radio, television, and YouTube's with the mission of helping people find hope after loss.

Here's to all getting the help we need as we suffer in our own ways.