There’s a history of bad feelings between U.S. immigration officials and California’s liberal leaders. But Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to warn potential targets of federal arrest that an ICE sweep could be imminent was an over the top escalation.
Mayor Schaaf issued an alert Saturday night after she received a confidential tip from a credible source that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was planning a raid across the Bay Area as soon as Sunday.
The mayor, along with Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, discussed the reports and Mayor Schaaf concluded that the intel warranted going public. She even conferred with legal counsel trying to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for federal prosecution.
A news release was given which Schaaf said was intended “not to panic our residents but to protect them.” This move was certainly the most assertive one made by a local politician in an effort to counter the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
The message sent was loud and clear: Oakland and their police force will not cooperate with ICE and the city will actively seek to stop efforts to detain and deport immigrants.
“I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation,” Schaaf said in her Saturday night statement. “I believe it is my duty and moral obligation as Mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.”
Reaction to the mayor’s warning was quick and intense from those who favor strong immigration enforcement. Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, called Schaaf’s statement a “political stunt.”
“This is pretty irresponsible on the part of a public official,” Vaughan said. “To the extent, this results in people being able to hide from ICE and shelter in the community inevitably creates more victims. It also creates fear in the community. She may or may not have good information.”
The Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, supported Oaklands move saying, “We can and must protect immigrant families from Donald Trump’s mass deportations. I want to thank Mayor Schaaf for her courage and hope more local leaders will follow her lead.”
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday in the Latino Fruitvale neighborhood, Schaaf said she notified mayors of other Bay Area cities and felt “confident that my sharing of this information because I did not receive it through official channels, is legal.”
Schaaf would not address pointed questions about her interference of ICE’s efforts to make arrests, but she did make reference to Oakland nurse Maria Mendoza-Sanchez. Maria with her husband was deported last year after more than twenty years in the United States. The couple left behind four children who have legal status.
“Oakland is full of Marias,” Schaaf said.
Some are indicating that Schaaf’s warning, although unusual, was vague enough that she may not have put herself in legal jeopardy.
“She’s basically saying that in the next day ICE is going to be conducting some kind of operation,” said Lara Bazelon, an associate law professor at the University of San Francisco. “She doesn’t say what kind, which areas will be targeted or which people will be affected.”
The mayor’s decision puts her in the center of a feud between the Trump administration and Democratic leaders in California. Last year Gov. Jerry Brown signed a statewide sanctuary law.
Schaaf has made other extreme moves in an effort to block ICE from making arrests of illegal immigrants in her city. She backed a resolution that prohibited even blocking off a street for federal immigration authorities.
“The policy needs to not create even the impression that our Police Department is supporting an ICE operation or is in any way complicit with deportation actions,” Schaaf said. She even commented to reporters in January that she would be willing to go to jail to protect Oakland’s immigrants and the city’s sanctuary policies.
Do you think that Mayor Schaaf has gone over the top?
Credit: SF Gate