The war of words between the Trump administration and officials in California over immigration intensified around federal sweeps in the north of the state that ended with more than 150 arrests.
Over the weekend, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted residents that she had heard from multiple sources that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would be conducting operations there imminently; she urged those in the country illegally to take precautions.
Oakland, like many California cities, has declared itself a sanctuary for those here illegally, and officials there have vowed to fight President Trump’s immigration crackdown.
Schaaf has been praised and condemned for giving residents advance notice.
ICE’s acting director, Thomas D. Homan, blasted Schaaf.
“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 on Tuesday.
Speaking on “Fox and Friends,” Homan added that the mayor’s warning helped an estimated 800 “criminal aliens” avoid capture. He also said federal authorities were examining her actions.
“What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’ when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to a whole community. This is beyond the pale,” he said.
Schaaf stood by her decision.
“My statement on Saturday was meant to give all residents time to learn their rights and know their legal options,” Schaaf said Tuesday in a statement. “It was my intention that one mother, or one father, would use the information to help keep their family together.
“I do not regret sharing this information. 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,” she said in a statement.
In ICE’s three-day sweep across Northern California, agents arrested more than 150 people suspected of violating immigration laws, the agency said in the same statement that criticized Schaaf.
About half of those arrested have criminal convictions, the agency said.
Homan said 864 immigrants with criminal histories are still at large despite the raids that led to arrests in cities including Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco and Bay Point. He blamed Schaaf in part.
“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, he said.
Immigration detainers lodged against them have been “repeatedly ignored,” Schwab said. “Instead they have been released back into the community to potentially reoffend.”
In fiscal year 2017, ICE arrested 20,201 people across the state, Schwab said. Of those, he said, 81% had criminal convictions.
Some immigration activists said the Oakland mayor’s actions had unintended consequences.
“The main reaction that people have had has been fear, unfortunately,” said Eleni Wolfe, immigration program director at Centro Legal de la Raza, an Oakland-based advocacy group, in an interview earlier this week. “It’s terrifying to hear about the potential of increased enforcement action, and unfortunately that’s the main message that they heard.”
Others rallied to Schaaf’s defense.
“In this particular case, in this day and time, we need to tell people that they got to keep their families whole,” Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”
4 p.m.: This post was updated with comments on “Fox and Friends.”