Federal agents arrested more than 150 people suspected of violating immigration laws during a three-day sweep across Northern California, authorities said Tuesday.
About half of those arrested have criminal convictions. A top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said he thought others were able to elude arrest after the Oakland mayor alerted the public about the upcoming raids.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan blasted so-called sanctuary laws in San Francisco and Oakland, saying they endanger immigration officers who aren’t allowed in jails and therefore must make more arrests in the community.
“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 with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold,” Homan said in a statement.
He added that 864 immigrants with criminal histories are still at large despite the raids this week that led to arrests in Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco and Bay Point.
“I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision,” Homan said.
Among those at large are Oakland residents with multiple prior removals, said James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE in San Francisco, a field office that spans 49 counties from Bakersfield to the Oregon border. They include someone convicted of carrying a loaded firearm and selling drugs, and another suspected of transporting cocaine and having sex with a minor.
Immigration detainers lodged against them have been “repeatedly ignored,” Schwab said. “Instead they have been released back into the community to potentially reoffend.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent out the alert Saturday night, saying she had heard from multiple sources that immigration agents would be conducting enforcement operations “starting as soon as within the next 24 hours.”
She urged residents here illegally to take precautions, sparking debate about what role politicians and city governments should play in spreading information — both confirmed and unconfirmed — about possible federal immigration sweeps.
In a statement late Tuesday, Schaaf said she does not regret offering the heads-up about the raids.
“It was my intention that one mother, or one father, would use the information to help keep their family together,” she said. “It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together.”
In fiscal year 2017, ICE arrested 20,201 people across the state, Schwab said. Of those, he said, 81% had criminal convictions.
Some of those who were arrested in the latest sweep will be prosecuted for returning to the country after deportation, Schwab said. One person arrested in Bay Point had been removed from the country eight times.
Another, a documented Sureño gang member identified as Armando Nuñez-Salgado, has four prior removals, Schwab said. Over the last 18 years, he added, the 38-year-old has been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, hit-and-run causing injury and evading a peace officer.
Dozens of people caught in the sweep have no criminal histories. Although the raids prioritized people who pose a threat, officials said anyone violating immigration laws were subject to arrest.