Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent out an alert on Feb. 24 to warn illegal immigrants that a federal immigration operation was pending in her jurisdiction.
Despite the alert, since Feb. 25 an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation in the Oakland area has netted more than 150 individuals who are in violation of immigration laws.
About half of those arrested have criminal convictions, including convictions for assault/battery, crimes against children, weapons charges, and DUI, according to ICE.
Acting ICE Director Tom Homan said that despite the operation, 864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community.
“I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision,” Homan said in a statement on Feb. 27. “Unlike the politicians who attempt to undermine ICE’s critical mission, our officers will continue to fulfill their sworn duty to protect public safety.”
One of the targets still at large is a Honduran citizen who was previously arrested in San Francisco County multiple times for cocaine possession and transport, probation violations, and sex with a minor under 16, ICE said.
ICE said it has lodged detainers against the Honduran in the past, but local jails have instead ignored them and released the man back into the community.
Schaaf had said she was sharing the information “not to panic our residents but to protect them.”
“I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation,” Schaaf said. “I believe it is my duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.”
A warning like this from a public official is “very irresponsible,” said Jessica Vaughan, director for policy at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
“ICE is targeting primarily criminals who have been released by sanctuary policies in the Bay Area, and so the mayor is really tipping off criminals that ICE is seeking,” Vaughan said on Feb. 26.
“The ironic thing about officials like this mayor—who implement sanctuary policies—is that they say they do it because they want all immigrants in the community to feel safe,” she said.
“Well this has the opposite effect. They feel less safe because they feel they are vulnerable to an enforcement action that is probably not even directed at them.”
More illegal immigrants are at risk of being swept up in collateral arrests by ICE if the agency is forced to conduct at-large arrests in the community, Homan said, especially now that no illegal alien is exempt from enforcement. Under President Barack Obama, ICE was given prosecutorial discretion to only arrest convicted criminals, but President Donald Trump has said ICE is not restricted in arresting any illegal alien.
“The Oakland mayor’s decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens—making clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda in opposition to the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold,” Homan said.
California officially designated itself a sanctuary state as of Jan. 1 and as such, Oakland police officers are prohibited from participating in ICE activities.
Several months ago, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick came under fire for providing traffic control assistance while ICE conducted an operation.
Due to the state law, business owners can now get fined for assisting ICE agents in immigration enforcement, and federal immigration agents are barred from accessing employee-only areas.
“My priority is for the well-being and safety of all residents—particularly our most vulnerable—and I know Oakland is safer when we share information, encourage community awareness, and care for our neighbors,” Schaff wrote.
Vaughan, said that although this sounds good, the way to keep Oakland safe is to allow the police to share information with ICE.
“Her policies prevent that—the kind of information sharing that actually would help keep everyone in Oakland safe. So it’s a one-way street for her on information-sharing,” Vaughan said.
“What’s sad though, is that Oakland has a lot of people—Americans and legal immigrants alike—who are negatively affected by illegal immigration. And her open invitation for people to come and reside in Oakland illegally is a slap in the face to them.”