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Thread: Article: Making Sense of the Acquittal in Kate Steinle’s Case: Why Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Equating Immigrants with Criminals Must Stop By Cyrus D. Mehta

  1. #1

    Article: Making Sense of the Acquittal in Kate Steinle’s Case: Why Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Equating Immigrants with Criminals Must Stop By Cyrus D. Me

    Making Sense of the Acquittal in Kate Steinle’s Case: Why Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Equating Immigrants with Criminals Must Stop


    Kate Steinle’s death was a senseless tragedy. On July 1, 2015, as she was
    walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14, a gun goes off and cuts her life
    short. She died in her father’s arms.

    The accused, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, is an undocumented Mexican immigrant
    who had been deported five times before, and each time, has illegally come
    back into the United States. He was charged with murder and manslaughter,
    but the jury recently acquitted him of the charges. His acquittal has
    inflamed President Trump who calls the verdict a travesty of justice. He
    uses the acquittal as another reason to build the wall. If Mr. Garcia
    Zarate did not cross the border illegally, Kate would still be alive today,
    Trump and his supporters argue.

    But Mr. Garcia Zarate’s immigration status was not relevant. In the
    criminal justice system, the twelve jurors were asked to look at the facts
    and deliberated hard for six days. The key issue was whether the defendant
    intentionally killed the victim? Immigration status was not part of the
    jury’s deliberations and should not have been, however much Trump and his
    supporters may insist. Evidence was presented in the trial that the bullet
    had ricocheted before killing Ms. Steinle. The jury determined that Mr.
    Garcia Zarate did not intentionally kill her. Mr. Garcia Zarate was
    nevertheless convicted for felony possession of a weapon and will face
    prison time. After he completes his sentence, Mr. Garcia Zarate will
    presumably be deported to Mexico for the sixth time.

    In order to have a fair criminal trial, which the United States ensures for
    all defendants, immigration status should never be relevant and thus not
    admissible evidence. The only question in court was whether the defendant
    intentionally fired the gun. As the facts were presented, Mr. Garcia
    Zarate, a homeless immigrant living in the country illegally, unwrapped a
    cloth object under a bench on a San Francisco pier. Inside the cloth was a
    gun that had been stolen days before. During the presidential campaign,
    Trump exploited Kate’s unfortunate death to conflate immigrants with
    criminals, foment hate, inspire a mass deportation program and to catapult
    him into the presidency. Trump continues to rage and exploit Ms. Steinle’s
    unfortunate death to further his anti-immigration policies. He says this in
    a recent



    The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama
    border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was
    not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD

    Mr. Garcia Zarate may have been an undocumented person who illegally
    crossed the border many times. But that fact would not have changed the
    outcome as Mr. Garcia Zarate’s border crossings in violation of law were
    not the proximate cause of Ms. Steinle’s death. If Mr. Garcia Zarate had
    not picked up the gun at that fateful moment, and if another homeless
    person born in the United States picked up the same gun, Ms. Steinle may
    have still been killed. The fact that a person may have crossed the border
    illegally does not make them a criminal with a tendency to commit even more
    crimes in the United States. The criminal justice system can fairly deal
    with people accused of crimes, whether they may be immigrants or US

    To be clear, Mr. Garcia Zarate is no model immigrant. He is not a Dreamer
    or a STEM graduate. Still, he got a fair trial in our criminal justice
    system even though he was unable to afford fancy lawyers. Most immigrants,
    however, are hardworking and honest, trying to make better lives for
    themselves, while also benefiting the United States. They are also
    valiantly trying to legalize their status in an immigration system that
    urgently needs an upgrade. Indeed, a
    Cato Institute report

    establishes that immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, commit lesser
    crimes than native Americans. It is irresponsible to use this tragic
    incident to scapegoat all immigrants or to drum up support for mass
    deportations of millions of people. It would also not be in keeping with
    Ms. Steinle’s memory if her death results in hate and misery
    fomented by white nationalist groups


    Ms. Steinle’s death was also used as a basis for the Trump administration
    to oppose sanctuary jurisdictions. Mr. Garcia Zarate had completed a nearly
    four-year federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the country. He
    was turned over to San Francisco law enforcement officials because of an
    outstanding warrant for a marijuana-related charge that was immediately
    dismissed. Local officials released him, despite a request from federal
    authorities to keep him in custody because of his immigration status,
    according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Steinle’s family. The
    Trump administration issued an executive order in January 2017

    to articulate its broadened enforcement policy against undocumented
    immigrants, which among other things sought to block federal funds from
    “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

    The January executive order stated, “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the
    United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens
    from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused
    immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our
    Republic.” The executive order said, among other things, that the policy of
    the executive branch is to “[e]nsure that jurisdictions that fail to comply
    with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as
    mandated by law.” The order further said that the Secretary of Homeland
    Security has the authority to designate a jurisdiction as a sanctuary
    jurisdiction, and that the Attorney General can take “appropriate
    enforcement action” against any entity that “has in effect a statute,
    policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal

    Following lawsuits by the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara,
    California, federal district

    Judge William H. Orrick ruled

    against a provision of the Trump administration’s executive order issued in
    January 2017 to block federal funds from “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The
    counties challenging the executive order argued that the relevant provision
    of the Trump executive order violated the separation of powers doctrine in
    the Constitution because it improperly sought to wield congressional
    spending powers. The counties said it was so overbroad and coercive that
    even if the President had spending powers, the executive order would
    clearly exceed them and violate the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition against
    commandeering local jurisdictions. Further, the counties argued that the
    provision was so vague that it violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process
    Clause and was void for vagueness. And because it sought to deprive local
    jurisdictions of congressionally allocated funds without any notice or
    opportunity to be heard, it violated the procedural due process
    requirements of the Fifth Amendment.

    The federal government responded that the counties could not demonstrate
    that the executive order’s sanctuary provision was invalid under all
    circumstances. It also claimed, among other things, that the provision was
    consistent with the Constitution’s separation of powers and did not apply
    to funding in which the county might have a constitutionally protectable

    The court noted that the provision in question, by its plain language,
    attempted to reach all federal grants. The rest of the executive order was
    broader still, the court noted, addressing all federal funding. And if
    there was any doubt about the scope of the executive order, the court
    observed, the President and Attorney General “erased it with their public
    comments.” The court noted that the President has called the order “a
    weapon” to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred
    policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary reiterated
    that the President intends to ensure that “counties and other institutions
    that remain sanctuary cites don’t get federal government funding in
    compliance with the executive order.” The Attorney General has warned that
    jurisdictions that do not comply would suffer “withholding grants,
    termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants,”
    and the “claw back” of any funds previously awarded, the court noted.

    The court said that the Constitution vests spending powers in Congress, not
    the President, so the executive order “cannot constitutionally place new
    conditions on federal funds.” Further, the court noted, the Tenth Amendment
    “requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made;
    that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that they not be
    unduly coercive.” Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to
    immigration enforcement “cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction
    chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President
    disapproves,” the court said. Because the executive order violates the
    separation of powers doctrine and deprives the counties of their Tenth and
    Fifth Amendment rights, the court granted the counties’ motions for summary
    judgment and permanently enjoined the defunding and enforcement provisions
    of the executive order.

    Despite the injunction, and following the acquittal verdict in the Stienle
    case, anti-immigrant rhetoric equating immigrants with criminals continues
    to intensify as the Administration ramps up its deportation force, doubles
    down on cruel deportation tactics, and attacks policies put in place by
    local police and sheriffs to keep their communities safe. The hateful
    rhetoric must stop. Entangling local law enforcement with deportations
    undermines trust and safety. Local law enforcement has repeatedly come out
    in favor of so-called “sanctuary” policies, not the least because honoring
    detainers issued by ICE has led to counties being liable when courts have
    found that a person’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment were
    abridged when someone was detained without a judicial warrant or court
    order. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with
    distrust because they fear deportation, it encourages criminals to prey
    upon victims and witnesses alike. Victims of domestic and other violence
    choose to suffer in silence rather than seek assistance; key witnesses of
    crime refuse to come forward out of fear that they themselves will be
    treated as a criminal; and a climate of fear grips entire neighborhoods.
    Regardless of the passions generated in the Steinle case, cities and
    localities need to make pragmatic, rational choices about how to best make
    and keep their city/locality safe. The decision to disentangle local
    policing from immigration enforcement promotes community trust and the
    federal government should not interfere with this local policy making.
    Indeed, such a disentanglement will be more effective in preventing crime.

    America has been a nation of immigrants since its inception over 240 years
    ago, while it has been just over a year since ugly anti-immigration
    sentiment has been unleashed through Trump’s rise. Over these two
    centuries, there has also been a recognition that those who are accused of
    crimes face a fair trial in the United States regardless of where they come
    from or their immigration status. It is hoped that these bedrock principles
    grounded in the nation’s history and character will withstand the
    xenophobic stirrings of the moment.

    This post originally appeared on The Insightful Immigration Blog.

    About The Author

    Cyrus D. MehtaCyrus D. Mehta is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC. He is a prolific speaker and writer on contemporary immigration topics. He graduated with law degrees from Cambridge University and Columbia Law School.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of

  2. #2
    Cyrus says, "Mr. Garcia Zarate’s immigration status was not relevant." Yes, it was, Cyrus. He was here illegally and had been deported previously. And he was in police custody before he killed the young women. If the police had held him for ICE, he would not have killed her. Of course, he probably will come back again after he is deported this time too, but that's a different issue.

    My problem with the way you look at this issue is that you don't make a distinction between aliens here legally and ones who are here illegally. You need to make that distinction when you talk about 'immigration" crime. If our immigration laws were enforced more effectively, we would have fewer crimes committed by aliens here illegally. In any case, the crimes they commit are the issue, not the crimes committed by immigrants generally, lumping both groups together.

    Nolan Rappaport.

  3. #3
    Cyrus Mehta's point is obvious and entirely valid. He is not saying that the now acquitted defendant in the above case is a model immigrant or that people with his history of breaking the law should be welcome in America. No one would argue that.

    What Mr. Mehta is saying, if I understand his comments correctly, is that Donald Trump is exploiting the killing of an innocent young woman by someone who everyone agrees is a "bad hombre" to justify an agenda which is aimed against millions of peaceful, law abiding immigrants whom the president does not want in this country for reasons which have little or nothing to do with preventing violent crimes.

    We saw the same thing after the despicable Halloween attack in New York City by a deranged, radicalized Muslim immigrant who came to US legally through the visa lottery a number of years earlier. Trump lost no time in trying to blame all immigrants who use this visa as being, allegedly, potentially dangerous to America, even though over a million people have come to the US legally in the past two decades using this same visa; with, as far as anyone knows, no other terror related incidents by any of them. The real "danger" from these immigrants, in the view of Trump and his supporters in Congress who want to abolish this visa, is that most of these immigrants are from outside Europe, with a large percentage (about 40 per cent, I believe) coming from Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Why is Trump's agenda of moving back in the direction of a whites-only immigration system, such as America had for 40 years prior to 1965, so dangerous for America and our democracy? Because barring or deporting immigrants en masse because of their color or religion inevitably turns millions of American citizens of the same ethnicity or religion into second class citizens.

    This is especially dangerous when this agenda is carried out through authoritarian means such as a border Wall (Remember the Communists' Berlin Wall and the Nazis' Warsaw Ghetto Wall) or Trump's Muslim ban executive order.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Last edited by ImmigrationLawBlogs; 12-07-2017 at 03:31 AM.

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