Commentary: State ‘sanctuary’ laws tie the hands of local law enforcement

The widow and other relatives of slain Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh arrive for his funeral service at CrossPoint Community Church on Saturday.
(Stephen Lam / Getty Images)

Once again Californians have a front row seat to the tragic results of our so-called “sanctuary” laws. Cpl. Ronil Singh of the Newman Police Department was the most recent casualty on an ever-growing list of Americans who have allegedly been killed by undocumented immigrants.

How much longer will Sacramento pretend not to acknowledge the threat to public safety its laws have created? California lawmakers’ political face-off with the federal government does nothing more than put our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, at risk.

The tragic irony is Singh immigrated to this country legally and had achieved the American dream. He chose to make a career by protecting others, only to have his life stolen, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant. Abandoned by a state he swore to protect, California lawmakers instead supported, and may have provided safe harbor to, someone who is accused of victimizing one of its residents. California failed Singh.

Sacramento lawmakers have created a greater distrust of local law enforcement and established a sanctuary for criminals to thrive in.

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Singh could be alive today if SB 54 did not prohibit local law enforcement agencies from speaking with their federal counterparts. Singh stopped Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who previously crossed into the United States without documentation, on suspicion of drunk driving. Arriaga had two prior arrests for driving under the influence; police said he had known ties to a street gang. Without our “sanctuary” laws, Arriaga may not stand accused of taking Singh’s life.

In Orange County, we understand the benefits our diverse backgrounds have for our community, both economically and socially. It’s part of what makes our county great, a true melting pot. Tying the hands of our local law enforcement to remove dangerous individuals from our streets only benefits the criminals.

In the wake of this unspeakable tragedy, those who have stepped up to find justice for the Singh family — and protect residents of this state — were not our lawmakers and supporters of “sanctuary” laws, but local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together.

Supporters of SB 54 have doubled down on their position, claiming support of sanctuary policies still remain what is best for their communities. They use the excuse that fear of deportation will stop those in the country illegally from reporting crimes. However, local law enforcement does not enforce immigration laws. In truth, all SB 54 supporters have done is put innocent lives in danger.

If state elected officials truly cared about our communities, they would do everything within their power to support and protect individuals like Singh. Unfortunately, that dream was stolen from him, just as it was from many others. Perhaps because of these state policies, another family has lost a loved one, a husband and father who will never return home.

The safety of our loved ones and communities remains my priority. We can no longer allow our families to be sacrificial lambs for elected officials who choose not to protect the citizens they serve and represent.

Michelle Steel is the Orange County supervisor in District 2.