Cal Poly is investigating the Thursday morning placement of anti-undocumented immigrant flyers outside the Dream Center, which houses the Undocumented Student Working Group.
The flyers depicted Kate Steinle, a Cal Poly graduate who at 32 was killed two years ago in San Francisco when struck by a bullet from a stolen handgun held by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and had multiple drug-related convictions and deportations.
“This is a very unfortunate situation, and UPD is currently investigating who created and put up the flyers,” Associate Vice President Kathleen McMahon wrote in an email response to a student complaint, adding that she forwarded the matter to the campus Bias Incident Response Team.
One flyer provided a brief narrative of how Zarate came to be free on the day of Steinle’s death, while the other simply showed Steinle’s photo with the words “She had dreams too.”
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The Dream Center did not return a request for comment.
Then-candidate Donald Trump used Steinle’s death as a rallying cry, describing Zarate as “an animal” whose release from custody was a symbol of everything wrong with “sanctuary city” policies, which San Francisco has adopted. So called “sanctuary cities” limit local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
Though Zarate was charged with murder, a jury rejected that charge last week, as well as a lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter. Zarate was found guilty solely on a count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and also faces federal firearm charges.
Trump, and his supporters, used the acquittal as further cause for outrage.
“These forces are seeking to transform (Steinle’s) tragic death into a racist ‘dog-whistle’ to be used against undocumented members of our community,” student Mick Bruckner wrote in his complaint to the university.
When reached for comment, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said the placement and content in the flyers are protected as free speech.
“Cal Poly supports the right of all of its campus community members to speak their views — even those that might be unpopular with or objectionable to others,” Lazier wrote in an email to The Tribune. “Cal Poly also stands firmly behind its DACA and Dream Act students and employees, as part of its broader recognition of the importance of diversity in the overall education of its students and commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion campuswide.”
Editor’s note: The headline on this story has been updated.