Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Wednesday refused to say she was concerned that illegal immigrant criminals are still on the streets in her city after she warned illegal immigrants over the weekend that Immigration and Customs Services (ICE) was planning imminent raids.
When reporters repeatedly asked her during a press conference if she was worried that some some illegal immigrants with criminal records in her city were not detained, Schaaf deflected and said when she made her decision, she was thinking of Maria Sanchez, an illegal immigrant Oakland nurse who made national headlines last year when she was deported after being in the country for more than 20 years.
Schaaf insisted that she felt “confident” that tipping off illegal immigrants of ICE’s plans “was the right thing, and it was legal.”
“I did not give specific information that could have endangered law enforcement,” Schaaf said, adding that her police chief was supportive of her decision and she did not receive information through “official” channels.
“I encouraged people to not panic but to know their rights, to know their responsibilities, and to know about the unique resources that are available in this community,” she said.
ICE reportedly detained 150 people in the San Francisco area this week, and Thomas Homan, the agency’s acting director, said on Wednesday on Fox and Friends that ICE could not locate another 800 illegal immigrants because of Schaaf’s warning.
“So that community is a lot less safe than it would have been,” Homan said. “I watched her statement where she says her priority is the safety of her community. Well, what she did had the exact opposite effect.” Homan even said Schaaf was like a “gang lookout yelling ‘police’” when a police cruiser drives by.
As CBS noted, ICE revealed that “about half of the individuals arrested” in its most recent sweep in the Bay Area “also had past criminal convictions in addition to their immigration violations, including convictions for assault and battery, crimes against children, weapons charges and DUI.”
When asked about Homan’s comments, Schaaf said ICE is “trying to distract people from their racist messages.” Schaaf even accused President Donald Trump’s administration and ICE of “political retaliation,” which she said “should not be tolerated in a democratic America.”
“We have to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate, that immigrants are dangerous criminals. This is racist and it is false,” she said, insisting that “nothing is further than the truth.”
After repeatedly denouncing the Trump administration and ICE for their racism, she lamented that the country has become so “divisive.”
“I believe it is very sad that our country has become so divisive, so polarized, and so hateful and vitriolic. I am trying in this moment to be calm and thoughtful, to be clear about my values but to do it in a way that is respectful,” Schaaf said.
Despite being criticized by some local leaders and immigrant advocacy groups, Schaap said she is also “being thanked for standing up for the residents of my city, the most vulnerable that often don’t have a voice.” She said she is “hopeful” that her decision “gave comfort and security to many people in Oakland,” which described as a sanctuary city that “believes in keeping families safe and keeping families together.”
When pressed again about whether she felt comfortable that some criminal illegal immigrants were not captured because of her decision, Schaaf claimed that she takes “fighting crime extremely seriously” and added that, “even in a sanctuary state like California, procedures are in place for deporting dangerous criminals.”
She said a third of Oakland is made up of immigrants and her community is safer when it is “reflective of the values of the people” that she represents and when the “immigrant community” feels like they can report crimes and be witnesses to crimes.
When asked if she would issue more alerts, Schaaf said she “will assess every situation” as it comes to her.