A photo of murder victim Kate Steinle, right, is placed on an easel as her father Jim Steinle (second from left) prepares to testify about her murder during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on USA immigration enforcement policies, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 21, 2015.
Steinle was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant while she was walking on a San Francisco pier with her father in July 2015. Jurors did convict him of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Zarate had been in a San Francisco jail on charges of selling marijuana but was released three months before the incident and allowed to remain free under sanctuary city laws.
"The verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for", said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor's office.
"I urge the leaders of the nation's communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers", Sessions said.
Steinle's story has been prominent in Republicans' push for immigration reform - including a bill passed by the House this summer titled "Kate's Law," which creates harsher punishments for illegal re-entry into the US.
Sanctuary supporters say enlisting police in deportation actions undermines community trust in local law enforcement, particularly among Latinos.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, who had been deported to Mexico five times since first entering the United States as a juvenile, had been charged in the July 1, 2015, killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier.
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"When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public's safety at risk". She was a 32-year-old medical equipment saleswoman.
The shooting happened during the presidential campaign and touched off a fierce debate over the country's immigration policies. The bullet ricocheted on the pier's concrete walkway and fatally struck Steinle in the back.
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said in his closing remarks that he knows it's hard to believe Garcia Zarate found an object that turned out to be a weapon that fired when he picked it up. The administration has appealed.
In September, a federal judge in Chicago ruled the U.S. Justice Department can't withhold millions of dollars in grants supporting public safety from cities that refuse to share with federal officials the immigration status of suspects in custody.
ICE also requested an immigration detainer so the agency would be notified if he was released. "It's disconcerting", Brad Steinle told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Prosecutors said the verdict was not what they had hoped for, but they respect the decision.