Sher­iff says: ‘Why are we pro­vid­ing sanc­tu­ary?’

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY KEVIN VALINE kva­[email protected]­bee.com

Stanis­laus County Sher­iff Adam Chris­tian­son strongly sug­gested Fri­day that Cal­i­for­nia’s sanc­tu­ary laws are to blame in the slay­ing of a New­man po­lice cor­po­ral who was shot two days ear­lier dur­ing a traf­fic stop.

Chris­tian­son iden­ti­fied the sus­pect in Cpl. Ronil Singh’s death at a Sher­iff’s Depart­ment news con­fer­ence as Gus­tavo Perez Ar­riaga, 32, whom the sher­iff said en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally from Mex­ico and has been in this coun­try for sev­eral years.

Chris­tian­son said the fo­cus should be on Singh’s ser­vice and sac­ri­fice. He im­mi­grated legally to the United States from Fiji with the hope of be­com­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer. How­ever, some of what Chris­tian­son said fo­cused on the state’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

Chris­tian­son said Ar­riaga has two DUI ar­rests in Madera County, and Singh had stopped him early Wed­nes­day be­cause he sus­pected Ar­riaga was driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. Chris­tian­son added Ar­riaga has gang ties.

“This is a crim­i­nal il­le­gal alien with prior crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity that should have been re­ported to ICE (U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment),” the sher­iff said. “We were pro­hib­ited, law en­force­ment was pro­hib­ited be­cause of sanc­tu­ary laws and that led to the en­counter with (Cpl.) Singh.

“I’m sug­gest­ing that the out­come could have been dif-

fer­ent if law en­force­ment wasn’t re­stricted, pro­hib­ited or had their hands tied be­cause of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.”

Chris­tian­son sin­gled out Se­nate Bill 54, which was passed in 2017 and lim­its lo­cal law en­force­ment’s co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion, though lo­cal au­thor­i­ties can re­port peo­ple con­victed of some felonies to ICE.

“Why are we pro­vid­ing sanc­tu­ary for crim­i­nals, gang mem­bers?” the sher­iff said. “It’s a con­ver­sa­tion we need to have.”

In an in­ter­view af­ter the news con­fer­ence, Chris­tian­son also pointed to Cal­i­for­nia’s TRUST Act of 2013 as ty­ing the hands of law en­force­ment. The sher­iff said in an email the act took ef­fect in 2014 and “was a state-level sanc­tu­ary pol­icy that lim­ited law en­force­ment co­op­er­a­tion with ICE un­less the ar­restee had al­ready been con­victed of se­ri­ous crimes.” Ad­vo­cates say the sanc­tu­ary law en­cour­ages lawabid­ing im­mi­grants to feel safe in re­port­ing crimes to law en­force­ment re­gard­less of their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. The shoot­ing and sub­se­quent man­hunt cap­tured the at­ten­tion of res­i­dents in and around Stanis­laus County and across the coun­try. At a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day in New­man, Chris­tian­son pointed out that the sus­pect was an il­le­gal im­mi­grant.

“He doesn’t be­long here; he is a crim­i­nal,” the sher­iff said, hours be­fore dis­cussing the is­sue on Fox News.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump even Tweeted about the sus­pect’s il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

Chris­tian­son was among a group of Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials who met with Trump and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials at the White House in May to speak against Cal­i­for­nia’s sanc­tu­ary laws. “We’re look­ing for the peo­ple who are crim­i­nals,” the sher­iff said then. “Not the peo­ple who are seek­ing a bet­ter life in Amer­ica.”

Chris­tian­son said at Fri­day’s new con­fer­ence that Ar­riaga has been a farm la­borer and dairy worker. The sher­iff did not pro­vide the name of his em­ployer be­cause he said Ar­riaga had no longterm, con­sis­tent em­ploy­ment at one job.

Ar­riaga pleaded guilty to a mis­de­meanor DUI with in­jury in Madera County Su­pe­rior Court in Septem­ber 2014 and was sen­tenced to five days in jail, fined $1,883 and or­dered to at­tend a first­time DUI of­fender pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the su­pe­rior court’s clerks of­fice. Ar­riaga also was placed on three years’ bench or in­for­mal pro­ba­tion.

The clerk’s of­fice said a $15,000 bench war­rant was is­sued in Jan­uary 2015 for a de­fen­dant iden­ti­fied as Gus­tavo Perez, who has the same birth date as Gus­tavo Perez Ar­riaga, for fail­ing to ap­pear at his ar­raign­ment in an­other mis­de­meanor DUI case.

Ar­riaga was rep­re­sented by Dan Martin from the pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice. Martin said while he rec­og­nized Ar­riaga from his photo he did not re­call the de­tails from the case and said the file was not avail­able.

But Martin said af­ter 11 years as a pub­lic de­fender “only the ex­tremes stand out. Know­ing that, it would sug­gest he was not an im­pos­si­ble mon­ster or an in­cred­i­bly nice guy.”

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