When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tipped off residents in February about an upcoming immigration sweep, she received searing criticism from President Trump and immigration hawks who likened the alert to an obstruction of justice.
Now, a Republican congressman from Iowa is proposing criminal penalties for officials in so-called sanctuary cities who make similar disclosures. Rep. Steve King on Monday introduced the Mayor Libby Schaaf Act of 2018, which calls for up to five years' imprisonment for officials who obstruct or impede the enforcement of federal laws.
"I want lawless, sanctuary city politicians to hear this message clearly: If you obstruct ICE, you are going to end up in the cooler," King said in a statement.
A spokesman for Schaaf said the mayor was unavailable Monday for an interview. But in an appearance on CNN, Schaaf said it's "not possible" that King's proposed legislation could be legal.
"I'm not going to let the bullies in Washington, D.C., deter me from doing what I know is right for my community," she said. "In Oakland, we're very clear about what our values are. We value our immigrant communities, we value diversity, and we will not let anyone intimidate us."
Last week, Schaaf wrote a piece published in the Washington Post titled, "No, Mr. President, I am not obstructing justice."
"The president takes issue with a tweet I posted in February in which I notified residents of an impending raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Bay Area, including Oakland," she wrote. "I wanted to make sure that people were prepared, not panicked, and that they understood their legal rights."
Oakland, like many California cities, has declared itself a sanctuary for people in the country illegally, and officials there have vowed to fight Trump's immigration crackdown.
Schaaf drew both praise and criticism when she alerted Oakland residents Feb. 24 about the imminent immigration raid.
She sent out a message saying she had heard from multiple sources that immigration agents would be conducting enforcement operations "starting as soon as within the next 24 hours." Schaaf urged those in the country illegally to take precautions.
In the four-day raid that followed, federal immigration agents arrested 232 people suspected of violating immigration laws, according to ICE. Of those, 115 had previous convictions for "serious or violent" crimes or "significant or multiple" misdemeanors.
That week, in an interview with "Fox and Friends," acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said that the mayor's warning helped an estimated 800 "criminal aliens" avoid capture. He also said federal authorities were examining her actions.
Homan's comments, which were repeated by others in the Trump administration, led to the resignation of an ICE spokesman in San Francisco who said it was false to suggest that Schaaf was responsible for 800 targets eluding arrest.
"It's a false statement because we never pick up 100% of our targets," James Schwab told CNN. "And to say they're a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading."
When Schwab raised his concerns to ICE leadership, he said he was instructed to "deflect to previous statements. Even though those previous statements did not clarify the wrong information."