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Commentary: Republicans also deserve blame for the Kate Steinle tragedy

Liz Sullivan, mother of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle, who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, is comforted while her son Brad Steinle sits nearby during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. The committee heard testimony from family members who have had loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. A San Francisco jury on Thursday found Steinle's killer, an illegal immigrant, not guilty. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In 2015, Kate Steinle, a family friend and Steinle’s father were walking along Pier 14 in San Francisco when a gun was suddenly fired by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an immigrant who had entered the United States illegally and had previously been deported five times. (When the shooting occurred, Zarate was being sought by officials for a sixth deportation because of drug-related felonies.) The bullet from Zarate’s gun ricocheted off the pier and struck Steinle, who collapsed into her father’s arms.

Kate Steinle, 32, pleaded with her father, “Help me, Dad,” before tragically losing her life.

Zarate claimed he found the gun, which had been stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger, under a park bench and that the shooting was an accident.

No justice for Kate

On Thursday, after six days of jury deliberations, Zarate was found not guilty of murdering Steinle. The jury also determined Zarate was not guilty of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. However, Zarate was found guilty of illegally possessing a firearm, a charge that carries with it a three-year sentence, although Zarate has already served more than two years in prison over the course of the trial.

Whenever a person unjustly loses his or her life, it’s a tragedy. Race, religion, national origin — none of that matters. No one should die in the streets the way Kate Steinle did. Further, no criminal — and that’s exactly what Zarate is — should be let off the hook for killing someone, accidental or not.

A preventable tragedy

But what makes this case so immensely important isn’t that a tragedy occurred; it’s that it could have easily been prevented. Because San Francisco is a “sanctuary city,” the city’s law enforcement officials won’t work with federal agents to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Additionally, San Francisco goes out of its way to protect people like Zarate, even when they have previously committed felonies. Had San Francisco, a city dominated by the Democratic Party and leftist identity politics, acted responsibly, perhaps Kate Steinle would still be alive.

Zarate had been caught illegally entering the United States and had committed other crimes while here on multiple occasions, but courts continued to deport him instead of putting him in prison. Had previous Congresses, including Republican-led Congresses, passed laws mandating imprisonment for repeatedly violating U.S. law, perhaps Kate Steinle would still be alive.

Millions upon millions of immigrants have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border over the past decade. The overwhelming majority of them are hard-working, wonderful people who simply want to make a better life for themselves. But because the United States has extremely poor border security, a large number of criminals — some of whom, like Zarate, are dangerous — have also been able to come to America, unnecessarily putting citizens and immigrants living in the United States at risk. Had previous Congresses, including Republican Congresses, built adequate border security, Kate Steinle might still be alive today.

Democrats won’t fix border security

It saddens me greatly to say this, but there’s simply no denying that the Democratic Party has done much to encourage illegal immigration over the past 20 years. And some Democrats, including many in California, have gone out of their way to make it virtually impossible for federal agents to remove even those illegal immigrants who have been deemed dangerous.

While I’m sure there are some in the Democratic Party who have done this for altruistic reasons, many Democratic politicians have worked tirelessly to stop the enforcement of our laws because they believe there are political advantages to doing so. It’s reckless and disgraceful, but it’s no longer surprising.

What is surprising, however, is that the Republican Party, which has long claimed it supports common-sense border security, has yet to do anything in Congress to stop future tragedies like Kate’s from happening again.

Republicans also to blame

In the 2000s, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House under George W. Bush, they failed to take the necessary steps to ensure our southern border is secure and to pass immigration reform measures that welcome hard-working, good-hearted immigrants while protecting Americans against criminals.

The Republicans once again control the White House and Congress, and after nearly a year, other than a few Trump-directed mandates, they have yet to do anything significant to fix our border-security crisis.

I expect the Democrats in Washington, D.C., to do nothing about immigration, but Republicans were elected in large part because tens of millions of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — want a border wall built and our country secured. Why hasn’t this happened yet? Why have Republicans in Congress dragged their feet? What the heck are they waiting for?

Republicans didn’t do enough in the 2000s to fix this problem, so they are also partly to blame for what happened to Kate Steinle. And if they don’t soon find a way to secure our borders permanently, they’ll deserve even more blame when the next tragedy occurs.

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