The backlash against Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for alerting undocumented immigrants against potential ICE raids in her city over the weekend isn’t going away. Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan issued a stern statement on Tuesday, decrying Schaaf’s actions, going as far as to say that she might have put the lives of federal agents in danger. On Wednesday morning, Homan went on Fox and Friends to say that what Schaaf did was “no better than a gang lookout.”
Calling the mayor’s warning “reckless,” Homan told the show’s hosts that ICE was unable to locate 800 undocumented criminals because of it.
"What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling 'police' when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to an entire community. This is beyond the pale," he said.
Schaaf, who has received death threats and is being accused of protecting people with criminal records, once again defended her actions at a news conference Wednesday, stressing that she’s confident what she did was the right thing.
“When I made my decision, the type of person I was thinking about was Melin Sanchez,” the 21-year-old daughter of Oakland nurse Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, and her husband Eusebio, whose battle to legally remain with their children in the United States ended with the couple's deportation.
Sanchez, who served as a nurse at Highland Hospital providing care to cancer and heart patients, spent 15 years trying to get U.S. legal status, but was unsuccessful.
“They committed not a single crime and they were deported by this administration,” Schaaf told reporters. “Melin asked me weeping, ‘Why did the government need to take her parents away from her.’"
ICE said that about half of the 150 individuals arrested had criminal convictions in addition to immigration violations, including convictions for assault/battery, crimes against children, weapons charges and DUI.
The arrests have sparked fear in immigrant neighborhoods and kept people at home for fear of being arrested, according to local business leaders. The ICE arrests come amid a nationwide debate over whether local jurisdictions that call themselves “sanctuary cities” must cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety,” Homan said in a statement. "Because these jurisdictions prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, they also force ICE officers to make more arrests out in the community, which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public."
He added that "ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately, and the agency prioritizes public and national security threats, immigration fugitives and illegal reentrants.”
Schaaf said she took fighting crime extremely seriously, saying that even in a sanctuary state like California, procedures were in place for deporting dangerous criminals. ICE is trying to distract people from their racist messages by spreading fear, she said.
Schaaf characterized ICE’s actions as political retaliation.
“I hope we take this moment to recognize that we have to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate – that immigrants are dangerous criminals. There is nothing further from the truth,” Schaff said. “The Trump administration and ICE has already stated that they are targeting California and targeting sanctuary cities like Oakland because of our political stand – political retaliation should not be tolerated in a Democratic America.”
As for whether she had broken any laws, Schaaf, herself a lawyer, said she had sought “informal legal advice” to ensure what she was doing was legal and justified.
The Justice Department said they are looking into whether Mayor Libby Schaaf obstructed justice.
“I’m doing my job as the mayor of Oakland, a community which is one-third immigrant,” she said. “Just as I am being criticized, I’m also being thanked – thanked for standing up for the residents of my city. Thanked for standing up for our most vulnerable residents that don’t have a voice – this is their city that believes in keeping families safe and keeping families together.”
When asked to comment about the controversy by reporters, Schaaf described it as “really sad.”
“Our country has become so decisive, so polarized and so hateful and vitriol, and I’m trying in this moment to be calm and thoughtful.”
Homan said assault on ICE agents were up over 50 percent this year. “This is a whole new norm, to intentionally warn criminals that law enforcement is coming. I just can’t believe it’s happening … she put law enforcement officials at risk … Our officers are putting their lives on the line every day to defend this country and to defend their community. And when politicians choose to take care of their political ambitions and make political statements on the backs of law enforcement it makes our jobs more difficult.”
He added: “We are not going away. We are going to keep enforcing the law.”
I do not regret sharing this information. It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together. pic.twitter.com/ng13yq431L
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) February 28, 2018