Steinle case solves noth­ing

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion -

Too of­ten in Amer­ica we are re­ac­tive rather than proac­tive in ad­dress­ing the na­tion's prob­lems. With each bit of break­ing news it seems that calm, con­sid­ered de­bate is re­placed by a flood of tweets and a wave of emo­tions.

So it is with the case of Jose Ines Gar­cia Zarate, the un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant ac­quit­ted here of mur­der and in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in the 2015 shoot­ing death of Kate Steinle.

In fact, the cir­cum­stances of Steinle's death are far too nu­anced to mean­ing­fully af­fect the rag­ing de­bate on im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies - from build­ing a wall on the Mex­i­can bor­der, to al­low­ing cer­tain mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to op­er­ate as so-called sanctuary cities.

More­over, the furor re­gard­ing this case could im­pact crit­i­cal mat­ters far re­moved from Steinle's killing, most no­tably the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram known as DACA. Congress faces a dead­line to res­cue the pro­gram that pro­tects chil­dren from be­ing de­ported. There is rea­son to fear that the ver­dict in Gar­cia Zarate's case might quash a DACA deal.

Sadly, Steinle's death doesn't even carry much weight in the de­bate over gun con­trol. The weapon had been stolen from a car be­long­ing to a fed­eral Bureau of Land Man­age­ment ranger - a crime that was never solved. Gar­cia Zarate claims he found the gun along the San Francisco wa­ter­front, picked it up, and it dis­charged once, the bul­let ric­o­chet­ing off con­crete and then strik­ing Steinle as she walked nearby.

There is no dis­put­ing that Gar­cia Zarate was in the U.S. il­le­gally and that his record in­cluded a string of non­vi­o­lent of­fenses. At the time of the shoot­ing he had been re­leased from a San Francisco jail de­spite a fed­eral re­quest that he be held for his sixth de­por­ta­tion.

Prose­cu­tors made a se­ri­ous tac­ti­cal er­ror in seek­ing a mur­der con­vic­tion in Gar­cia Zarate's case, de­spite the fact there were no wit­nesses, no hint of a mo­tive, and cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence that pointed to an ac­ci­den­tal shoot­ing more so than a pre­med­i­tated mur­der. The jury re­turned a guilty ver­dict on the lesser charge of gun pos­ses­sion.

Pres­i­dent Trump pre­dictably re­sponded via Twit­ter that the ver­dict was a "trav­esty of jus­tice." He re­newed his call for a bor­der wall - re­ly­ing on emo­tions more than facts to make his case. White su­prem­a­cist groups have be­gun pro­mot­ing #kateswall in sup­port of Trump's pet project.

The facts show that fed­eral of­fi­cials failed to ob­tain the re­quired war­rant that would have kept Gar­cia Zarate in a San Francisco cell prior to the shoot­ing. Also at fault: the ranger who left his firearm in an un­locked car, and prose­cu­tors who over­reached in court.

A flawed process? Yes. A tragic death? In­deed. A mean­ing­ful ref­er­ence point in the na­tion's over­ar­ch­ing im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy? No.

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cau­tiously Op­ti­mistic," is avail­able at Ama­zon. com and Can­didCam­era.com. ©2017 Peter Funt. Col­umns dis­trib­uted ex­clu­sively by Ca­gle Car­toons, Inc., news­pa­per syn­di­cate.

Peter Funt

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