Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responds, stands ground to ICE criticism

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf did not back down from defending herself Wednesday, after she was criticized by the acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan criticized Schaaf on Fox News for warning undocumented immigrants of impending ICE raids over the weekend. He said it puts law enforcement officers at risk.

“What she did is not better than a gang lookout yelling, ‘police,’ when a police cruiser comes into a neighborhood of criminals except she did it to an entire community,” Homan said. “This is a whole new low to intentionally warn criminals.”

Schaaf spoke at a news conference Wednesday at her office inside Oakland City Hall. She said she is receiving both backlash and praise for her action.

“What I did was my job as Mayor of Oakland and reflective of the values of the people that I represent,” Schaaf said.

KTVU asked Schaaf’s office who she was referencing and we were told Schaaf talked with community leaders of immigrant groups by phone before tipped off the public. Schaaf said one third of Oakland’s population is made up of immigrants.

Still, some in the community said she went too far. ICE officials have reportedly asked the US Department of Justice to look into whether Schaaf broke any laws with her warning.

“We have to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate, that immigrants are dangerous criminals,” she said. “Ample evidence shows that American born citizens are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants,” she said. “We have a criminal justice system. We should let that work.”

KTVU asked San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia whether he would confirm or deny any ICE activity in his city if he had prior knowledge of an impending raid. He released the following statement:

“In response to recent media requests confirming ICE activity in San Jose; The San Jose Police Department does not take part in the enforcement of immigration laws and we will continue to educate our immigrant community of this policy.  ICE is fully aware of our non-immigration enforcement stance and has been performing targeted operations in our area for several years. While this police department does not take part in federal immigration enforcement, we also cannot obstruct lawful federal enforcement activity by alerting the media to such activity occurring in San Jose. ICE activity creates anxiety in segments of our diverse community and when ICE alerts us about activity in our area, we are subsequently able to communicate with community stakeholders to quell, and not exacerbate fear in our city. We are only able have that level of communication with our community, because we are able to dialogue with ICE.”

More than 150 undocumented immigrants were arrested in the ICE crackdown across Northern California over the weekend. ICE said about half have criminal convictions in addition to their immigration violation. The agency listed crimes such as assault, crimes against children, weapons charges and DUI, but it did not provide a list for each person.

Homan said Schaaf’s warning may be the reason the agency did not arrest roughly 800 people that they were looking for during the ICE raids. He said because of that the Oakland community is a lot less safe than it would have been.

Homan worked for ICE under the Obama administration and was promoted to acting director of the agency by President Trump in January 2017. He has nearly 30 years of immigration enforcement experience.

A spokesman for the US Department of Justice had no comment on any potential investigation surrounding Schaaf.