NEWPORT — You may not know who Kate Steinle was or care. But you should. She was killed in a sanctuary city.

On July 1, 2015, the 32-year-old was walking along a pier in San Francisco with her father when the unthinkable happened. She was shot and killed by a five-time-deported illegal immigrant and felon. San Francisco had earlier passed an ordinance prohibiting city employees or use of funds from assisting immigration officials, thus becoming a sanctuary city.

Last week, a California jury found Garcia Zarate not guilty of murder or manslaughter – only convicting him of being a felon in possession of a gun.

Zarate had been deported five times before Steinle was killed. He was scheduled to be deported a sixth time, but that did not happen in time to protect Steinle. Local law enforcement had to let him go because San Francisco chooses to protect illegal immigrants.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, right, is led into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor for his arraignment on July 7, 2015. A jury acquitted him in November on possible charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool

California has some of the most stringent and draconian gun control laws in the nation, so the left can’t blame Steinle’s death on guns. She’s dead because a sanctuary city refused to comply with federal law enforcement and detain her killer, who was in the country illegally, opting instead to set him free.

While this crime occurred 3,000 miles away from us, we’re not immune to this here in Maine. Several Maine communities have discussed becoming a sanctuary city, only to water down the wording to avoid losing federal funds for not cooperating with federal officials and law enforcement on illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, two Maine sheriffs (Kevin Joyce of Cumberland County and William King of York County) said they would no longer hold inmates past their release date for federal immigration officials – a practice eerily similar to the one that caused the death of Steinle in San Francisco.

As public officials, we have a duty to obey federal law and we have a duty to protect our citizens, first and foremost. Advocating for tougher immigration policy and an end to sanctuary cities doesn’t make us “racists” and it doesn’t make us “anti-immigrant” – it makes us pro-public safety. We are a state of immigrants. Let me be clear: I’m not against immigration, but what I’m for is legal immigration. A family friend of mine became an American citizen and was naturalized in Bangor this past week. My own family came to Maine from Canada three generations ago. They all came legally.

Legal immigrants are vital to the long-term economic vitality of our state. We are acutely aware of the workforce challenge facing Maine. Immigration can be an integral part of meeting economic work force demands. Many of these immigrants have college educations or skills our employers so desperately are seeking.

In 2010, in one of his first orders of business, Gov. Paul LePage signed an executive order reversing the Baldacci-era policy that barred law enforcement officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, trying to put an end to sanctuary cities in Maine.

In 2015, I opposed legislation that extended General Assistance welfare benefits to asylum-seeking immigrants for up to two years. Most of this money goes to two cities in Maine. It seems to me actions like this by the Maine Legislature are an invitation for cities in Maine to become “sanctuary cities” like San Francisco. Cities where crimes are committed by illegal immigrants that then go unpunished.

Today we are spending taxpayer dollars to give welfare to noncitizens while thousands of severely disabled Mainers languish on waiting lists for state funding. I prefer to follow federal law; to protect the citizens of our state and to prioritize funding for those severely disabled who are waiting for the Legislature to do the right thing.

In June, Republican primary voters will get to choose a nominee to be Maine’s next governor. Earning the nomination of our party shouldn’t be a steppingstone along the way, but a reminder of the responsibility all of us, as candidates, have to lead by example. I’ve been a Republican my entire life and support law enforcement’s efforts to protect the public. Part of that leadership should require us to not support sanctuary cities that intentionally avoid and violate federal law, and instead, put the public safety of Mainers first.