OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responded Wednesday after she was criticized by the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for issue a warning about impending immigration raids last weekend.
ICE confirmed at least 150 undocumented immigrants arrested in the raids, which have been taking place in locations throughout Northern California since Sunday.
Schaaf warned about the upcoming raids on Saturday, saying it was her “duty and moral obligation as Mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.”
Following the announcement, Schaaf’s office was inundated with phone calls and social media messages criticizing the decision.
On Wednesday, the mayor defended the warning to immigrants at a news conference.
“I continue to feel confident that what I did was the right thing and was legal,” Schaaf told reporters.
The mayor also fired back at President Donald Trump, saying, “I hope we take this moment to recognize that we need to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate, that immigrants are dangerous. There is nothing farther from the truth.”
She also criticized the administration for targeting California as a way of payback for the stand state officials have taken against the president.
“The idea that the federal government is using our resources to exercise a vindictive political agenda from the Trump administration against California is something we all should be angry about,” said Schaaf.
Schaaf disputed claims that being a sanctuary city has increased crime, saying homicides have dropped by 42 percent, shootings have dropped by 50 percent and armed robberies have dropped by 50 percent in the last five years, while the policy has been in place.
“My job is to make my city safer, and I take public safety very seriously. But many people agree, that a community that is one-third immigrants like Oakland, is safer when our immigrant community feel like they can come forward and report a crime,” the mayor said.
Hours earlier, ICE acting director Thomas Homan said in an interview with Fox News that the mayor’s statement put law enforcement at risk.
“What she did was no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘Police!’ when a police cruiser comes into the neighborhood, except she did it to the entire community,” Homan said.
“These are American heroes, that strap a gun to their hip every day to defend this nation, and to tell the criminals that we’re coming in the next 24 hours, is just incredible,” the director went on to say.
Homan disputed the mayor’s claim that the warnings made her community safer, saying 800 people that were targeted in the raids remain at large.
“These are people who are already here illegally and yet committed another crime, and have been convicted of a crime. She gave them warning, and there were 800 that we were unable to locate because of that warning, so that community is a lot less safe than it would have been,” Homan said.
Feds also said that almost half of the over 150 individuals detained had criminal records.
When Schaaf was asked about that criminal element Wednesday afternoon, the mayor replied, “They said nearly half. That means the vast majority of people who were impacted by this operation had no criminal background whatsoever. And ‘criminal’ includes re-entering the country after deportation.”
Although some immigrants do commit crimes, Schaaf said the criminal justice system already in place is adequate to address those issues without reliance on ICE, which has been deporting immigrants with no criminal record under the Trump administration.
“We have a criminal justice system,We should let it work. We should not conflate it with our broken immigration system,” she said.
Homan also criticized officials of other sanctuary cities during his interview. “I’ll say this to the mayor and every other politician that wants to vilify the men and women of ICE: We’re not going away, we’re going to keep enforcing the law,” he said.
Homan’s proclamation conflicts with Mr. Trump’s recent suggestion that he would remove ICE agents from the state, as part of an effort to pressure sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California,” the president said at a meeting last week. “If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”
In an exclusive KPIX 5 Survey USA Poll, most people said they thought Schaaf did the right thing
Almost half of the 500 people surveyed – 48 percent – agreed with Schaffs actions.
34 percent said it was the wrong thing to do. 18 percent of respondents were not sure.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum the poll also asked: should local police assist the feds in cases involving undocumented suspects in violent crimes?
A majority of people – 61 percent – responded that area police should help out, with only 23 percent responding that local police should not assist ICE. 16 percent said that they were unsure.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “The administration continues to brazenly target the cities that refuse to bow to its blatantly bigoted anti-immigrant and mass deportation agenda.”
Pelosi also described the raids as a “shocking abuse of law enforcement power.”