(Español) On March 25, 2019, a federal appeals court in California upheld a lower court ruling declaring the parents of Kate Steinle cannot sue San Francisco. Kate Steinle was shot and killed by an unauthorized immigrant in 2015, Jose Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who has been deported from the United States five times prior to this incident. Lopez-Sanchez has also used the name Jose Inez Farcia Zarate. Three weeks prior to the shooting he was released from a San Francisco jail for drug charges but, because of a policy of sheriff Ross Mirkarimi of limiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), immigration officials were not notified of Lopez-Sanchez’s presence and detention prior to his release.
The plaintiffs in the case attempted to sue the city of San Francisco because of the policy, arguing that, if the jail had notified ICE of Lopez-Sanchez, then the shooting would not have happened and Steinle would still be alive. A lower court also sided with the city in the decision prior to this appeal.
While the courts ruled in favor of San Francisco, they made special note of the court’s inability to say whether the sheriff’s memo was “wise or prudent.” The only thing they ruled was that the memo did not violate any federal or California law.
Lopez-Sanchez went to trial for homicide in 2017 but was acquitted by a jury on murder charges, as the defense argued the gun went off on accident. Instead, he was found guilty of a felon being in possession of a weapon, a lesser charge. The case was widely used by then-candidate Donald Trump at his rallies to bolster his hardline stance against illegal immigration and to support the need for a wall along the southern border. When he was elected, he continued using the case in an attempt to keep federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities,” which are cities with active and standing policies of limiting cooperation with immigration enforcement.