OAKLAND, Calif. - Responding to a report that there haven't been any federal human trafficking convictions in the city in at least a decade, the mayor of Oakland has said she now supports cutting off all ties to the Homeland Security Investigations unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
In an email first sent to the East Bay Express on Tuesday, Mayor Libby Schaaf explained why she wants to stop providing traffic assistance to ICE, effectively cutting off all ties to federal agents whose aim is to deport undocumented immigrants.
Schaaf's office sent the same email to KTVU on Wednesday, saying: "I support prohibiting the Oakland Police Department from providing any assistance to HSI or ICE.
I do so after careful review of the Aug. 16 operation, and with the full confidence that our Police Chief acted in accordance with the 2017 Sanctuary City council resolution that limited OPD involvement with federal agencies to matters of criminal activity and public safety.
Even though the current resolution forbids our officers to act in any way other than to protect our residents and officers from wandering into harm’s way of an active operation, the perception that OPD now participates, or somehow aligns itself with ICE, has grown too full to ignore.
This perception stops residents in our immigrant communities from viewing OPD as partners in our Sanctuary City. It stops residents from reaching out when they have been the victim of crimes; when they need assistance for their children; when they want to participate fully in our community.
It makes all of us safer to live in a city where everyone can feel protected and live free of fear.
Oakland is a proud city of immigrants. We must stand united and protect our most vulnerable communities."
Oakland, a sanctuary city, already does not assist ICE in immigration raids. But a loophole in city law allows for Oakland police to assist with traffic during those enforcement actions. The issue came to a head after an Aug. 16 ICE raid in West Oakland, when one man, Santos de Leon, was accused of being part of a "human trafficking" ring, but it turned out he was only arrested for being undocumented. He is now facing deportation hearings back to Guatemala. Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick emphatically told the public at the time that two officers were only there that day helping ICE blocking off the street.
The East Bay Express conducted a review of federal court records searching the human trafficking penal code and found that no one in Oakland had been prosecuted and convicted of human trafficking in the last 10 years. The review did not address sex trafficking convictions, only human trafficking ones. The news agency presented those findings to Schaaf on Tuesday before she issued her statement.
The issue of helping ICE with traffic enforcement has been simmering since the summer raid.
Brian Hofer, chair of the city's Privacy Commission, along with several other people, filed an official complaint against Kirkpatrick, alleging that she made false statements about the HSI/ICE operation and OPD's involvement in it. Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks have also called for a public airing about Kirkpatrick's statements. There is no evidence Kirkpatrick knew that ICE would not be charging the suspect with human trafficking, because that is what agents told her.
In addition, the city council is scheduled to take up the proposal next month by Kaplan and the Privacy Commission to ban OPD from doing traffic control in ICE/HSI operations.