By PETER FUNT
Too often in America we are reactive rather than proactive in addressing the nationâ€™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 Steinleâ€™s death are far too nuanced to meaningfully affect the raging debate on immigration policies â€” 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 Steinleâ€™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 Zarateâ€™s case might quash a DACA deal.
Sadly, Steinleâ€™s death doesnâ€™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 â€” 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 Garcia Zarate was in the U.S. illegally and 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 Zarateâ€™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 Donald Trump predictably responded via Twitter that the verdict was a â€śtravesty of justice.â€ť He renewed his call for a border wall â€” relying on emotions more than facts to make his case. White supremacist groups have begun promoting #kateswall in support of Trumpâ€™s pet project.
The facts show 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 nationâ€™s overarching immigration policy? No.
Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, â€śCautiously Optimistic,â€ť is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com. His column is distributed through Cagle Cartoons Inc.