I’m writing this as a companion piece to Jury Finds Garcia Zarate Not Guilty In Steinle Murder Trial: My Initial Reaction which I wrote and published rather impulsively yesterday.
Okay, I’ve done some reading since then. The New York Times makes a case for about 60 percent of the unauthorized population has been here for at least a decade and that the vast majority of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. (89.9%) having never been convicted of a crime.
Of course there are organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform that say merely crossing the border into our nation without permission is indeed a crime, so by definition, 100% of undocumented immigrants are criminals. However, CNN states that under federal law, a person entering the country without permission for the first time is guilty of only a misdemeanor that is punishable by fines and no more than six months in prison.
It gets dicey if you are found to have entered our country illegally on multiple occasions, particularly after having been deported, but the waters get even more muddy since approximately 45% of undocumented immigrants actually entered the U.S. legally and then stayed after their visas expired.
So what’s up with that pesky immigration law? If the law itself is “racist,” why don’t we just abolish it and have totally and completely open borders so that people from every nation can enter freely and without consequences. Then the U.S. wouldn’t be “racist,” right?
There is a (not so) hidden purpose in the law. A large number of undocumented immigrants work at jobs that otherwise would go unfilled, like as farm laborers and such, but there’s a catch. Since they are in this country without permission and vulnerable to being deported, they can be made to work for much less than minimum wage and otherwise exploited with little or no legal recourse. In other words, a significant portion of the U.S. economy (I’m shooting from the hip on this one so let me know if you can support or refute my assumption with actual evidence) depends on A: having an immigration law and B: allowing undocumented immigrants subject to that law to enter the country (semi) covertly so they can be exploited for cheap labor.
How do sanctuary cities fit into all this? Yes, the short definition of “sanctuary city” is one where the local government including law enforcement deliberately refuses to work with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials in locating and apprehending undocumented immigrants, but what is the benefit of having such communities?
According to CNN, supporters say:
Proponents say that by encouraging members of immigrant communities to work with police without fear of deportation, such policies help authorities improve public safety by helping authorities identify and arrest dangerous criminals who might otherwise go undetected.
“I firmly believe it makes us safer,” San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” “We’re a world-renowned city with a large immigrant population. … From a law enforcement perspective, we want to build trust with that population.”
Supporters say such policies are widely supported by police groups such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and chiefs from the nation’s largest police departments because they help communities unite to fight crime.
The same news article presents what the critics of such communities have to say:
“Unfortunately, a lot of cities in this country have decided they don’t want to cooperate with ICE,” Julie Myers Wood, former assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told CNN on Monday. “They think that cooperating with ICE causes them problems with respect to the immigrant community and public safety, but in fact it does exactly the opposite, as we’ve seen here.”
Such policies “ignore the fact that if the illegal aliens were removed from the U.S., they would not be here to become victims, and the predators would be out of the country, too,” Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, which opposes sanctuary policies, says on its website.
“Sanctuary policies — official or otherwise, result in safe havens (or safer havens) for illegal aliens involved in a variety of criminal enterprises — since their illegal schemes are less likely to be uncovered and face less risk of deportation if caught by local law enforcement,” the website says.
“Sanctuary policies also provide an environment helpful to Latin American drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist cells — since their activities are less likely to be detected and reported by law enforcement.”
Some Republican presidential candidates have used similar language. Donald Trump has blamed immigration policy for Kate Steinle’s death. Another Republican, Jeb Bush, agreed, saying such policies encourage such crimes.
Interestingly enough, a 2015 Los Angeles Times article invokes the Bible (Numbers 35:28) and the Middle Ages tradition of the Catholic Church to provide sanctuary to accused felons (presumably as an option to avoid incarceration or perhaps summary execution).
Of course the Times failed to do their Biblical research regarding ancient Israelite sanctuary cities and that such laws in the Torah only applied to Israel and the Jewish people, and only to those who accidentally caused the death of another, not deliberate homicide. Neither the Biblical example or church tradition can or should be considered applicable legally to cities and organizations in the U.S. today as they are not recognized by Federal, State, County, or City penal codes.
In the aforementioned blog I posted yesterday, I lamented (granted, I wrote and published the missive impulsively) the not guilty verdict of Garcia Zarate in the shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle.
Garcia Zarate has been convicted of seven felonies, was released by San Francisco law enforcement from jail three months prior to the shooting, and local law enforcement ignored a request from ICE to be notified of his release pursuant to them initiating actions for deportation (again).
Garcia Zarate broke into the car of a Federal Park Ranger and took his handgun (committing both theft and the illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon) and through some process that is unclear, discharged the firearm into a crowd on Pier 14 in San Francisco, with the round ricocheting and striking Steinle, killing her. She died in her Father’s arms.
For some strange reason, this does not merit a verdict of involuntary manslaughter in the eyes of the jury and all he was convicted of was illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. This whole travesty highlights the issue of sanctuary cities since if he were not in one when he shot Steinle, the shooter would have most likely been deported before he had the opportunity to steal a handgun and kill anyone.
The New York Times says that of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only 300,000 or 2.7% have been convicted of a felony. That seems like a pretty low number. On the other hand, Kate Steinle’s Dad must not only mourn his daughter but suffer the agony of knowing her killer goes unpunished for death.
My daughter is 29 years old, about the same age Kate was when she was shot and killed by Garcia Zarate, and my heart is broken for her Dad. I know exactly how he feels. In this individual case, both San Francisco as a sanctuary city and their criminal justice system failed him and his daughter. The state is supposed to speak for the rights of the victims. They have only served to embolden the criminals.
I did find out something interesting. Garcia Zarate’s defense said that he was handling the firearm and it “just went off” spontaneously. That’s pretty unlikely under most circumstances, but then I found a Facebook post by Dennis Karoleski that explained things further in terms of the specific handgun Garcia Zarate used:
In all this hullabaloo surrounding the inconceivable not guilty verdicts in the Kathryn Steinle trial, the “experts” seem to be overlooking a nasty trick the defense may have pulled off. The .40-caliber SIG Sauer P239 is equipped with a de-cocking lever on the left side of the frame that is activated with only a few ounces of pressure and causes the hammer to drop harmlessly. After years of demonstrating and selling firearms, I can assure you that can be startling to people totally ignorant of firearm operation, as we can be sure the defense guaranteed during his jury selection. The fact that the jury suddenly made up its mind right after examining the firearm in question points to that being the case. If it can be proven that an intentional misleading impression was implanted in the minds of the jury by the defense and his “technical expert” can that be grounds to declare a mistrial?
In other words, it would have been all but impossible for the handgun to have spontaneously discharged. Through whatever process or intent, Garcia Zarate must have pulled the trigger. Perhaps he didn’t intend to kill Steinle or anyone else, but he nevertheless is directly responsible for her death.
If sanctuary cities did not exist, would Kate Steinle still be alive? That’s tough to say, but her chances of living would have increased substantially in my opinion given what I’ve written above. Does the fact that few undocumented immigrants have ever been convicted of a felony justify the continuance of such cities? I don’t know.
I do know that if people of color can feel outraged and even riot as a result of a police officer being found not guilty of a crime in shooting and killing an African-American man under what might be considered questionable circumstances, I too can feel outraged (though I have no intention of committing acts of violence) as a result of Garcia Zarate being found not guilty in the shooting death of Kate Steinle when, after all, he was the person holding the stolen gun that killed her.
What I know or am reasonably convinced of is that while immigration law is, on the surface, in place to regulate our borders (and to the best of my knowledge, while some nations have open borders relative to specific other states, none have universally open borders allowing anyone from any other jurisdiction on Earth to enter for any purpose and stay for an unlimited period of time), in reality, they create a class of “serfs” who are allowed to work and live in the U.S., but only for illegally low wages and in order to keep the price of many of our goods and services down to what we consider affordable levels.
I don’t know what the answer is on a large-scale national and social level. I do know as a Dad of a daughter and a Grandpa to two adorable grandchildren, the loss of even one single child is a price that is too high to pay.