Two days after a police officer in his county was killed in the line of duty — allegedly by an illegal immigrant with multiple DUIs and links to gangs — Stanislaus County, California, Sheriff Adam Christianson railed California’s “sanctuary state” law, arguing that Cpl. Ronil Singh may still be alive had it not been passed.
This isn’t the first time Sheriff Christianson has gone after the law, SB54, which prohibits local police from sharing immigration status information with federal authorities if a detained individual is charged with a minor crime.
“Christianson, a Republican, has been a vocal critic of the policy and met with President Trump at the White House in May to speak out about the bill,” the San Francisco Chroniclereported. “The sheriff appears in a YouTube video posted by the White House seated beside Trump during the meeting.”
While Christianson said that “(t)he last thing in the world I want to do is politicize the death of officer Singh,” according to the Chronicle, he made it clear during a news conference Friday that the legislation made it difficult for criminals who are illegally in the country to be deported — like Gustavo Perez Arriaga, the 32-year-old day laborer accused of killing Singh during a traffic stop in Newman, California.
“We were prohibited — law enforcement was prohibited because of sanctuary laws and that led to the encounter with Officer Singh,” Christianson told reporters.
“The outcome could have been different if law enforcement wasn’t restricted, prohibited, or had their hands tied because of political interference.”
Check out Christianson’s appearance Thursday on Fox News.
Cpl. Ronil Singh an American Patriot, HERO, FATHER, HUSBAND and LEGAL IMMIGRANT – Life Cut short by an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT. This Shouldn’t have happened. Sheriff Adam Christianson has a STRONG MESSAGE for Open Borders Politicians ⬇️ @LisaMarieBoothe #IngrahamAngle #BuildTheWall pic.twitter.com/lAzEtubulx
— Stephanie Hamill (@STEPHMHAMILL) December 28, 2018
SB54 may not have been directly responsible for the fact that Arriaga hadn’t been deported. Records show that he was arrested for DUI in the Madera County town of Chowchilla in 2014 — three years before SB54 was passed by California lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017.
However, Chowchilla Police Chief David Riviere made it clear that his city’s department acted under de facto “sanctuary city” enforcement: Officers didn’t bother checking on Arriaga’s legal status.
“As far as immigration status, I can tell you we do not ask those questions. We have no reason to,” Riviere told the Chronicle.
“He was stopped for a traffic violation and found to be DUI.”
Given that Arriaga also had warrants out for his arrest involving driving without a license and without insurance, wouldn’t his legal status in the country perhaps be something worth checking?
The Modesto Bee reported that Arriaga had one other DUI arrest in Madera County. While the date of the incident is unknown, a bench warrant was issued for a Gustavo Perez — who had the same birthdate as Gustavo Perez Arriaga — in January of 2015.
It’s also worth noting that Singh had pulled Arriaga over on suspicion of DUI, precipitating the confrontation that led to Singh’s death.
The point — and indeed the problem — is that SB54 didn’t happen in a vacuum. Take it away tomorrow and not much would change. There would still be towns like Chowchilla that wouldn’t bother to check whether someone with a DUI was even in this country legally, especially if they had other warrants outstanding.
“Why are we providing sanctuary for criminals, gang members?” Christianson asked at his news conference Friday. “It’s a conversation we need to have.”
And, indeed, the case comes as a fight over the border wall has caused a nationwide conversation about border security.
As Sheriff Christianson rightly said, we oughtn’t politicize the death of Cpl. Singh, particularly as his loved ones mourn. However, this senseless tragedy should be part of our calculus as we consider what a border wall and sanctuary laws mean in the wider debate over illegal immigration — and whether they help or hinder our progress toward a safer country.