ICE seeks to deport immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle case

U.S. immigration officials announced Thursday that they will seek to deport Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the immigrant residing in this country illegally who was acquitted earlier in the day of murder in the 2015 shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement Thursday night blasting San Francisco for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities before the deadly shooting, arguing the city could have prevented Steinle's death.

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"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 added. "Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country."

Steinle's death was widely politicized, including by President Trump, who argued that "sanctuary city" policies like those in San Francisco led to her death.

Zarate had been deported five times previously, and had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the fatal shooting in 2015.

He had previously served a prison sentence for illegally re-entering the country, and was transferred in 2015 to San Francisco to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.

However, the charge was dropped by the district attorney and Zarate was released after federal immigration authorities contacted California authorities to request Zarate be held for deportation.

The San Francisco Superior Court jury on Thursday found Zarate not guilty of murder and assault with a firearm in the Steinle case, but convicted him of being a felon in possession of a gun. He will be sentenced at a future date.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez urged politicians and other Americans to respect the jury's verdict after it was handed down.

“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 a local CBS affiliate.

“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.”

Updated: 11:07 p.m.