OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN) - Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said today that reports that federal immigration officials are preparing for a major sweep of cities such as Oakland that have sanctuary policies are making many of the city's residents nervous.
"The level of fear and anxiety in this community is at unconscionable levels," Schaaf said.
Referring to President Donald Trump, Schaaf said, "It is no surprise that the bully in chief is continuing to try to intimidate our most vulnerable residents."
But she said, "We're very clear that our values are to protect all of our residents regardless of where we come from. We want to protect families, not tear them apart."
Schaaf said, "We are exercising our legal right to be a sanctuary city. The fact that the federal government is suggesting that it is actively retaliating against jurisdictions that are exercising their right to have sanctuary policies - that is what is illegal."
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Sanctuary cities such as Oakland have policies that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
Asked if she is willing to go to jail to defend Oakland's policies, Schaaf said, "Yes!"
The mayor said Oakland police won't help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials if they conduct raids in her city.
"Our policy is that Oakland is hands off," Schaaf said. Schaaf's comments today came a few hours after the Oakland City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to clarify that the city's Police Department won't provide any assistance, including traffic support, to ICE officials if they conduct any raids in the city.
City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan authored the resolution following the Police Department's role in an August raid in which a person was detained and now faces deportation.
Oakland officers provided traffic support for ICE agents who were carrying out the raid.
"It is not acceptable for the Oakland administration to collude with ICE, as this federal agency is targeting non-criminals, harassing people based on their national origin, and undermining our justice system," Kaplan said in a statement.
"The head of ICE under Trump (Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan) has publicly stated that his intention is to strike fear into communities, and now he is targeting California and cities like Oakland," Kaplan said.
"The actions of ICE worsen community-police relations, and make everyone less safe, by causing victims and witnesses of crime to be afraid to come forward," she said.
Kaplan said what she described as Homan's "threat against public officials who oppose the targeting of immigrants" is "entirely inappropriate for someone running a law enforcement agency, as it perpetuates racial prejudice, and weakens the community-police relations that are vital to
stopping serious crime."
Kaplan said, "I continue to stand opposed to such actions, and will continue to denounce, and refuse to collude in, Trump's racist agenda."
ICE's acting director released a lengthy, and strongly-worded statement Wednesday evening:
"The politicians who crafted this proposal either do not understand - or simply choose to ignore - basic facts. Just like other federal law enforcement agencies, ICE officers and agents are sworn to uphold federal law and arrest those in violation of the law. It is wrong and deeply offensive to impugn the integrity of the thousands of men and women law enforcement officers of ICE by accusing them of being racists, harassers, and underminers of the judicial system -- all for doing their sworn duty to enforce the law.
If members of the Oakland city council are truly concerned about undermining the rule of law and about public safety, perhaps they should look in the mirror. Sanctuary cities knowingly and intentionally release criminal aliens, who are already in the country in violation of the law, back onto the streets where they can reoffend in the very communities they live in - threatening public safety. Further, because these policies prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, our officers are forced to make arrests in the community, where there is increased risk to the public and law enforcement officers, and where ICE will likely encounter other illegal aliens that weren't previously on our radar. So in fact, sanctuary policies do the opposite of what the politicians claim they do. It defies common sense to demand that ICE focus efforts only on criminal aliens while at the same time limiting our access to the jails. Fewer jail arrests mean more arrests on the street, and that also requires more resources.
Finally, for politicians to prohibit one law enforcement agency from assisting another law enforcement agency with a public safety mission, such as traffic support, is unconscionable and poses dangers for local communities and for the brave men and women who carry the badge. It also sends a message to the community that encourages disrespect and interference in lawful ICE operations. I am saddened by the Oakland city council's obvious lack of concern for law enforcement officers' well-being and their careless disregard for their own responsibility to protect public safety. Those who put politics and their political ambitions over public safety and officer safety should talk to the victims of crimes perpetrated by criminal aliens to put the decisions they make into perspective.
Schaaf said the city helps fund legal support for residents facing imminent deportation and those residents can call a hotline through Centro Legal de la Raza at (510) 241-4011 for assistance.