Civil rights groups allege intimidation, racial profiling by ICE agents in Northern California

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Following the announcement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had arrested at least 150 people across Northern California, immigrant and civil rights activists held  a protest in San Francisco on Wednesday to decry the “psychological intimidation" used during these deportation operations.

Fighting back, the acting ICE director repeated his criticism of Oakland's mayor and all sanctuary cities, arguing that his agency is trying to root out criminals and his efforts are being thwarted by those who support giving undocumented immigrants a safe refuge. The rally drew swift criticism on social media. "Build the wall!!!" George Alegre wrote on Facebook. "I support ICE 100 percent," wrote Dick DeAnthony. 

But those conservative voices were not heard on the streets of San Francisco. "Stop Deportation!" the crowd chanted outside ICE’s San Francisco field office at 630 Sansome Street. Others carried signs that read "No raids. No ban. No wall." Still others formed a human chain, sitting on the sidewalk outside of ICE with signs that read "sanctuary for all."

State Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn. Chiu said he applauds the Oakland mayor -- as do many other democratic leaders.

"I am very grateful for her courage and her leadership," Chiu said. "She said she had a moral obligation to stand up for our immigrant families and to ensure they aren't being needlessly ripped apart -- I stand 
with Libby Schaaf."

"What Donald Trump is doing in declaring war on our immigrant families is unconscionable," Chiu said. "It's racist, it's xenophobic, and we're going to defend our families."

The rally was organized by dozens of groups called the “Power, not Panic Emergency Response Committee.” Members include the ACLU, the Alameda County Immigration Legal and Education Partnership, Full Rights Equality & Empowerment SF, Contra Costa East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network, Centro Legal de la Raza, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and many more.

These groups allege that ICE agents congregated at food trucks in Napa and reportedly joked about who would be arrested next and conducted several arrests by racially profiling people who walked into a convenience store in Merced County. ACLU attorney Angelica Salceda also alleged that ICE agents are “aggressively intimidating families in their homes and using tactics of racial profiling to detain people in public spaces.” 

“It appears that ICE selectively targets Latino neighborhoods, subjects people engaged in innocent activities to coercive questioning, and tricks people into opening their doors by misrepresenting themselves as local police,” Salceda added. Immigrants, even those who are undocumented, do not have to open the door for ICE agents unless they are presented with a search or an arrest warrant signed by a judge.

On Wednesday, Acting ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan lashed out at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who warned the public on Saturday night about the pending ICE operation.  "What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling 'police' when a police cruiser comes into the neighborhood," he said on Fox & Friends. "But she did it to the entire community...This is is a whole new low to intentionally warn criminals that law enforcement is coming. I just can't believe it happened. She intentionally put law enforcement at risk." 

He said he was looking into whether Schaaf had broken any  laws by alerting the public about the ICE operation.

While Schaaf has received death threats over the phone and even criticism from some of her progressive colleagues on the city council, she has remained steadfast in her resolve to protect her residents and keep families together.

"I do not regret sharing this information," Schaaf said. "It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws." 

She held a news conference on Wednesday in response to Homan's criticism: "We have to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate, that immigrants are criminals. This is racist and it is false. There is ample evidence showing that American-born citizens are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants. I take fighting crime very seriously as my record reflects. Even in a sanctuary state like California, procedures are in place."

As to whether she is obstructing justice? "I’m doing my job as mayor of Oakland. My job is to make my city safer. I take public safety very seriously, but many people agree that a community that is one third immigrants, like Oakland, is safer when our immigrant community feels like they can come forward to report a crime. What I did was my job as mayor of Oakland and reflective of the values of the people that I represent. Every day I make decisions as mayor of Oakland that are criticized. That comes with the job." 

ICE allowed Fox News to ride-along exclusively with agents during their three-day operation. Video shows the arrest of at least one man in Napa and another in San Francisco.

While ICE made 150 arrests, ICE said there are 864 others who remain at large in the community, although it's unclear what threats they pose and what cities they live in. About half of the arrests were of "criminals," ICE said, which means they could have been convicted of anything from entering the country illegally to DUI to violent crimes.

That means that the other half arrested were noncriminals -- undocumented immigrants with no prior criminal convictions. Immigrants whose only crime was living in the country illegally were largely left alone during the latter years of the Obama era. Entering the country illegally is a civil violation.

Also, of the 150 arrests, only one man was on the agency's most wanted list: Armando Nunez-Salgado, 38, a documented Sureno gang member, who was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and hit-and-run. He has served about 15 years in California prisons, ICE said, and had been ordered deported many times since 2000. ICE did not arrest anyone in Oakland.

KTVU's Cristina Rendon contributed to this report.