LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a sit-down interview with Eyewitness News on Thursday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva weighed in on California's sanctuary policies.
The topic gained even more attention after authorities announced that the suspect accused of fatally shooting a police officer during a traffic stop in Stanislaus County last month was in the U.S. illegally.
When asked about his plan to remove immigration agents from the L.A. County Jail, Villanueva said that even though they will be physically removed, he explained that there's a process to SB 54, the so-called "sanctuary state bill."
"It's a balancing act to maintain the public safety and ensuring the due process of those who are in the system," he said.
The suspect in the fatal police shooting, who was arrested under the name Gustavo Perez Arriaga, had a criminal record, including two DUIs and possible ties with gangs. Villanueva was asked whether he would have handed Arriaga over to ICE given the man's history.
"Everybody's looking back at it now to criticize, 'Oh, he should have been.' Well, when he was arrested the second time, he already had a felony DUI on the first one, yet why was he released the second time? There was a legal reason to keep him in custody... but somehow that never happened and had nothing to do with SB 54," he said.
Still, Villanueva said that everyone who qualifies will be transferred to the custody of ICE, but what officials are trying to minimize is "the damage of having the appearance of (the sheriff's department) working hand-in-hand with ICE."
"If the public perceives that the L.A. County Jail is a pipeline to deportation, we're going to suffer a very serious erosion of public trust, which means people are not going to report violent crimes...," Villanueva explained.
For the full interview, watch the video above.