Sanctuary laws complicate law

Michaela Bush – Columnist

A pair of names people may only vaguely recognize resurfaced in the news in a rather big way Nov. 30. The fate of Jose Zarate, 2015 shooter of Kate Steinle, was decided by a San Francisco jury: not guilty of 1st or 2nd degree murder or manslaughter, only of being a felon in possession of a gun.

Immediately, news outlets and numerous political groups countrywide began speaking out, either crying foul or supporting the ruling. However, plenty of confusion still remains around the incident, even concerning how Steinle was killed. A lot of Zarate’s criminal background was withheld from the jury, and the sanctuary city in which he resided even defied the federal court system, which requested the local office to keep Zarate in custody after a drug possession charge.

Zarate had reentered the U.S. at least five separate times, even serving a four-year sentence for illegal reentrance to the country. Three months before the incident he was released, but he was then taken back into custody and charged with drug possession.

According to ABC News, Zarate was released due to sanctuary city laws that allowed him to leave even though the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested that he be detained. If the local court system had simply followed those directions, Steinle may not have been killed. Just one day after Zarate’s acquittal, an arrest warrant was issued for him due to a supervised release violation.

The details concerning exactly how Steinle was shot are blurry at best. Some surveillance footage apparently displayed Zarate playing around with a gun for up to half an hour before raising it and firing it. In an initial police report, according to the Chicago Tribune, Zarate claimed to have been aiming at sea lions and discharged it, hitting Steinle instead.

According to the LA Times, the defense attorney claimed that Zarate found the firearm wrapped in a t-shirt and discharged it accidentally. The bullet then ricocheted off of the asphalt and continued travelling for 80 feet before striking Steinle in the back.

These scenarios seem to be happenstance at best. Why was no one else on the pier hit if it was an accident or a ricochet? If it was an accident, why was Zarate not tried for involuntary manslaughter? Since he did in fact kill Steinle, why did he simply walk away with a gun possession charge?

Asking these questions may no longer be worthwhile to the Steinle case, but it brings up another question: when are sanctuary laws appropriate, and when do they simply cause more damage?

There are many views on sanctuary cities and whether or not they should remain, but let us think about them as they are right now. Upon doing research for this article, it was discovered that the majority of readily-available ‘data’ on crime rates within sanctuary cities is biased with either a very liberal or a very conservative slant. Assuming there are mostly decent people residing in these areas, there may be a few very negative and dangerous influences, like in the rest of the U.S.

If sanctuary cities are to remain in place as they are, they should not stand in the way of the federal court system for repeat offenders like Zarate or people who have committed murders, whether they claim it was accidental or not. Though the officials in Zarate’s sanctuary city could not have known that he would later shoot Steinle after his release, and that it could have been preventable if they had just kept him in custody as was requested, this is an excellent example of why we should reconsider where lines should be drawn concerning the protection of criminals residing in sanctuary cities.

When is their safety more important than the safety of others living in the city, or those who do not live within the sanctuary zones? Why does a criminal’s protection from legal action seem more important than the safety of others?

Perhaps the bottom line here is that, regardless of a person’s mode of entry into this country, they are now on U.S. soil and should they break laws that endangers the welfare of others, these sanctuary cities should never stand in the way of the federal court system for delivering justice and creating safer communities.

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