San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued an apology Thursday for comments she made that linked Honduran immigrants to drug dealing in the city, which drew condemnation from Bay Area Latino organizations and community members.
In clips from the hourlong interview at an Oct. 5 live event with public radio station KQED-FM that began to circulate on social media this week, Breed said a large number of those arrested for dealing fentanyl are Honduran.
“There are unfortunately a lot of people who come from a particular country — come from Honduras — and a lot of the people who are dealing drugs happen to be of that ethnicity,” she said, pushing back against criticism that law enforcement was racially profiling Latinos in the Tenderloin neighborhood.
“It’s nothing ‘racial profile’ about this,” Breed said. “We all know it. It’s the reality, it’s what you see, it’s what’s out there.”
In her written apology, Breed said that while trying to explain the situation in the Tenderloin, she “failed to accurately and comprehensively discuss what is an incredibly complex situation in our City and in Central America.”
“We do have significant challenges with drug dealing in the Tenderloin, and those challenges are impacting families that live there, including immigrant Latino families and residents who are living in fear,” Breed said. “As a proud Sanctuary City, we have an obligation to provide a safe space for our immigrant families to live and thrive. That includes ending open-air drug markets and hold drug dealers, regardless of ethnicity, accountable.”
During the KQED event, Breed was asked about how officials would address drug use and the estimated 1,700 overdose deaths in the city since 2020.
The videos circulated as Latino leaders and community members were still dealing with the shock of Los Angeles city leaders’ racist comments toward Black and Indigenous people, which were brought to light in leaked recordings a week earlier.
“The comments in L.A. hurt people in the Bay Area, also,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, executive director of San Francisco nonprofit Central American Resource Center of Northern California. “And then to have this thing resurface with the mayor, it kind of added insult to injury with how our community is feeling in California overall.”
Dugan-Cuadra was among the Latino leaders who sat down with Breed this week to push for an apology and to convey the community’s disappointment and hurt.
She was concerned that Breed’s comments fed the xenophobic narrative of viewing immigrant communities as criminals, drawing parallels to former President Trump’s rhetoric. Dugan-Cuadra instead asked Breed to focus on solutions and preventive measures that address drug dealing and root causes of migration to the U.S. — such as poverty — rather than ramp up criminal law enforcement.
Breed said last month that she would be “less tolerant of all the bulls— that has destroyed our city.” She and Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins, Breed’s pick to succeed Chesa Boudin after he was recalled, have committed to a more aggressive approach of policing and prosecuting drug dealing and property crimes.
“I think any young person with migratory status whose only option to survive is existing in an underground economy is a reflection of our society,” Dugan-Cuadra said. “Young people should have more opportunities to fulfill their dreams, and shouldn’t be excluded and criminalized.”
Dugan-Cuadra also invited Breed to visit Honduras and Central America, so she can better understand the violent, impoverished conditions Hondurans and others are fleeing from. She said the mayor has been responsive and receptive.
Breed’s apology also included a pledge to support Dugan-Cuadra’s organization, CARECEN SF, which is opening a larger office near the Tenderloin. The nonprofit provides resources for Latino and immigrant families, including legal aid and representation in immigration and criminal courts.