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End the political vitriol & solve immigration
Sheriff Adam Christianson - photo by Photo Contributed

Corporal Ronil Singh, a police officer with the City of Newman (Calif.) Police Department, was a shining example of what’s good about immigration in America. A young man, full of life, devoted to his family and his community, always putting the needs of others ahead of his own.

He was committed to achieving his American dream by becoming a police officer. Immigrating lawfully and legally to the United States from Fiji, Ronil worked tirelessly to achieve his dream, even taking English speech lessons to overcome his accent in an effort to be better understood. He studied criminal justice in college, graduated from the police academy and took advantage of every opportunity to find a full-time job in law enforcement, finally getting hired with the Newman Police Department.

He was married with a 5-month-old son and shared a Christmas photo of his family on social media before leaving his home to protect and serve his community. Soon after that, he was murdered in the line of duty.

Tragically and senselessly, his American dream was taken from him by a criminal illegal alien who was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. In a split second, the suspect used a stolen firearm to murder Cpl. Singh, who was simply protecting his community from harm.

The suspect, a known criminal and gang member, was present in the United States illegally. With prior arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, he was intoxicated yet again. Tipped by a witness, Cpl. Singh located the suspect driving and conducted an enforcement stop. Moments later, Cpl. Singh found himself engaged in a gunfight with the suspect and, as he lay on the ground, mortally wounded, he called on his radio: “Shots fired, I’ve been hit.” When other officers and deputy sheriffs arrived, Singh was unconscious and unresponsive. His colleagues desperately tried to save his life, but it was too late.

The Newman Police Department is a small agency in southwest Stanislaus County. Never in the history of the agency have they suffered a line-of-duty death, and the murder of Cpl. Singh was an overwhelmingly shocking experience. The Stanislaus Sheriff’s Office, the largest law enforcement agency in Stanislaus County, immediately allocated resources to the criminal investigation and the manhunt for the suspect. 

Witness statements, and surveillance images from the convenience store camera system where the suspect purchased beer, gave us what we needed to pursue and capture the criminal coward who pulled the trigger, taking Cpl. Singh’s life. From the Sheriff’s Homicide Team, Sheriff’s Team Investigating Narcotics and Gangs (STING) and Special Investigations Unit, to our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we eventually found our suspect hiding in a residence in rural Kern County. He was on the run, trying to get across the Mexican border, but stopped in Kern County and stayed with family members and other associates. Seven of those who allegedly helped aid and abet the suspect have been arrested. They face criminal charges and deportation, as all are present in the United States illegally.

Critical to our success was the communication, collaboration and cooperation of all law enforcement agencies which, without hesitation, helped us track, locate and arrest this criminal fugitive. The FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security and many others, including the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, were all part of a coalition that was easily built because of “relationships.” We work together all of the time, sharing critical information that promotes and strengthens national security, public safety and community safety. Since 9/11, we have worked diligently to build stronger relationships and to promote healthier, safer communities.

Unfortunately, political interference from those elected to represent the people has created unnecessary prohibitions and restrictions on the sharing of information — and that is dangerous and irresponsible. In an effort to “protect” undocumented immigrants from law enforcement over some ill-conceived perception that we “target” this undocumented population, they’ve also created “sanctuary” for criminals. They’re protecting, from accountability and consequence, these predators who victimize and exploit others, all while silencing crime victims.

Local law enforcement does not enforce federal immigration laws. We have a strong relationship with the immigrant community, and we do not need the state’s legislature or anyone else helping us “build trust” by legislating, mandating and regulating. The TRUST Act, the TRUTH Act and now SB54 don’t promote trust; they erode the faith and confidence the community has placed in us.

We would be a much safer community and nation if Congress would address the issue of immigration by depolarizing itself and establishing a legal path to citizenship — one that must include the elimination of political barriers that prohibit law enforcement from communicating, collaborating and cooperating with our federal partners.

We also need a solution to a federal court’s opinion that detainers issued by ICE violate the Fourth Amendment. Sheriffs must be able to hold criminal illegal aliens in custody for ICE, not be forced to release them into our communities. It’s dangerous and irresponsible.

Finally, it’s time to stop demonizing and villainizing the men and women who serve and protect our nation, our borders and our communities. Let us do the jobs we are trained and authorized to do. 

This tragedy is not the first and certainly won’t be the last, unless we set aside partisan, vitriolic politics and find solutions that serve the people. Self-serving politicians won’t get the job done but someone certainly must. I hope the death of Cpl. Singh brings about a positive national dialogue, one that supports the efforts of law enforcement while standing by and for the rule of law.

May we always remember Cpl. Ronil Singh, as well as Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was gunned down by a criminal illegal alien — and the many other law enforcement officers who sacrifice everything, paying the ultimate price, by giving their lives to protect people they don’t even know.

Adam Christianson retired two days ago after three terms as Stanislaus County Sheriff-coroner. He began his public safety career as a paramedic and started in law enforcement with the Ceres and Modesto police departments before joining the Sheriff’s Department in 1996.