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December 17, 2017

Mexican migrant acquitted in US murder case seized on by Trump

Mexican migrant acquitted in US murder case seized on by Trump
'A well-wisher places flowers at the site where 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was killed on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco -- the man who shot her was acquitted of murder on Thursday' - By: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File JUSTIN SULLIVAN

An undocumented Mexican immigrant was acquitted Thursday of murdering a woman in California -- a dramatic conclusion to a polarizing case that President Donald Trump frequently used on the campaign trail to make the case against illegal immigration.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate -- who had been deported five times from US soil -- was charged with fatally shooting Kathryn Steinle, 32, in July 2015 in San Francisco.

His attorneys argued that the gun went off by accident.

After several days of deliberations, jurors only found him guilty of felony possession of a weapon.

Trump was quick to denounce the verdict, and immigration authorities said they would work to see Garcia deported.

"A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration," Trump tweeted.

During the heated 2016 race for the White House, Trump regularly used the case to justify his proposed construction of a massive wall on the border with Mexico, and to rally support behind his hardline stance on immigration.

Speaking to CNN last year, Trump dubbed Garcia an "animal," saying: "Mexico pushes back people across the border that are criminals, that are drug dealers."

The polarizing case reignited debate over cooperation between federal immigration authorities and police in state and local jurisdictions where the priority is crime prevention, not deportation.

The case prompted many US lawmakers to argue in favor of imposing restrictions on access to federal funds for places like San Francisco known as "sanctuary cities."

Such cities protect undocumented immigrants from deportation by refusing to assist or cooperate with federal immigration officials.

After the verdict, Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- who maintains an ultra-conservative agenda on immigration -- skewered San Francisco's sanctuary city status, saying its "decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle."

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