The long-awaited verdict in the murder case of Kate Steinle, the woman shot and killed by an immigrant who had been deported five times in the past, is reigniting the debate about sanctuary cities and immigration laws that heavily impacted the 2016 presidential election.
On Thursday, a jury acquitted Jose Garcia Zarate, the man accused of killing Steinle, of murder and manslaughter charges.
“You know my heart broke for the [Steinle] family,” said Jason Davis, whose brother, Placer County Deputy Michael Davis Jr., was killed by Luis Bracamontes, an immigrant who, like Steinle’s killer, had also been deported in the past.
When Jason heard the verdict in the Steinle case, it was a painful reminder of what his family had gone through.
“The role of our government is to protect its citizens, and we failed,” Davis said. “We failed in the Steinle case, we failed in our case.”
Davis’ brother was one of two deputies shot and killed in the line of duty. Bracamontes, who’s set to stand trial, was deported to Mexico twice before returning to Northern California illegally for a third time.
Both Steinle’s and the deputies’ cases drew national attention to the sanctuary city debate. Many argued San Francisco’s policy of not handing over felons living in the country illegally to federal agents led to Steinle’s death.
The national fervor around both cases, Davis admits, made it harder for his family to heal.
“Unfortunately, we’ve made it black versus white, Hispanic versus this, or that, or whatever,” Davis said. “That’s not who we are as a people, and we need to come together as a people. That’s what Michael would want out of this.”
“Today’s outcome, certainly pouring gasoline on that fire,” said Steve Maviglio, a political consultant based in Sacramento.
Because a jury acquitted the Zarate case, Maviglio says the sanctuary city debate will likely be reignited come election season — justified or not. He noted it was a favorite target of then candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
“It’s less an issue of sanctuary cities than it is about the failure of immigration to stop some from coming back into the country six times,” Maviglio said.
“We should be talking about it. It’s something we should be addressing,” Davis said.
Although he doesn’t like to see his brother’s case politicized, Davis wants to see tougher immigration laws for people who commit violent crimes. He says he doesn’t want other families to experience the pain the Steinles, or his own family, had to endure.
“Last night I just thought about it all night. My heart broke for the mother and the father,” Davis said.