After undocumented immigrant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, a case that sparked a nationwide immigration debate, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will work to deport him.
ICE issued a harshly worded statement Thursday night that blasted the city of San Francisco for not cooperating with the federal agency and allowing Zarate to return to the streets before the fatal shooting, suggesting it could have prevented Steinle’s death.
Zarate was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun and will be sentenced at a future date.
“San Francisco’s policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law,” ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan said in the statement. “This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.”
“It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents,” he continued. “Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country.”
Zarate had previously been deported five times and was released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the deadly shooting in 2015. He had served a prison sentence for illegally entering the country and was transferred to San Francisco in 2015 to serve a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.
That charge, however, was dropped by the district attorney. ICE contacted California authorities to detain Zarate for deportation, but the state declined to cooperate.
The case was highly politicized, including by President Donald Trump, who reacted to Thursday’s verdict with a tweet that said the jury returned a “disgraceful verdict,” followed by two others calling Democrats weak on the border and crime.
Matt Gonzalez, the defense attorney in the case, implored politicians and the American people to respect the jury’s verdict, telling politicians in office today that they, too, are under investigation.
“For those who might criticize this verdict – there are a number of people who have commented on this case in the last couple of years; the Attorney General of the United States and the President and Vice President of the United States,” Gonzalez said, according to CBS SF Bay Area.
“Let me just remind them: they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington D.C., and they may soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt, so I ask that they reflect on that before they comment or disparage the results of this case.”