A spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has resigned over what he claims are lies being told by top officials about the number of undocumented people who evaded arrest after the mayor of Oakland warned the immigrant community in of upcoming raids.
James Schwab, who was the spokesman for ICE in San Francisco, told The San Francisco Chronicle and CNN on Monday night that he decided to resign after officials including acting ICE Director Thomas Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that as many as 800 “wanted aliens” in California avoided arrest because of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Schwab told the agency he wanted to correct the number and was instead told to “deflect” questions from the press, he said.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab, who worked for the agency since 2015, told the paper. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”
After ICE’s Northern California raid—which began Feb. 25 and was dubbed Keep Safe—the agency said in a statement that it had arrested 232 undocumented people. Those raids were widely read as a direct challenge to California’s sanctuary laws which prevent local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Homan then said in a statement that “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision.”
In his speech last week in Sacramento announcing the Justice Department is suing the state of California over its sanctuary cities, Sessions seemed to borrow from Homan, saying there were now “800 wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more dangerous situations, all because of one mayor’s irresponsible action.”
And Trump, for his part, called Schaaf a “disgrace” during a weekend campaign rally in Pennsylvania, saying the raids were meant to round up “close to 1,000 people” but instead “took in a fraction of that.”
While the former ICE spokesman called the mayor’s actions “misguided” in an interview with CNN, he said the agency was still not telling the truth.
“Personally I think her actions were misguided and not responsible. I think she could have had other options. But to blame her for 800 dangerous people out there is just false,” he said. “It’s a false statement because we never pick up 100% of our targets. And to say they’re a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading.”
In a statement to Splinter, ICE said:
Even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk and as Director Homan stated, while we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact. While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.
UPDATE, 12:39 PM ET: In emails to Splinter, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department pointed to Sessions’ earlier comments, saying the number of people Sessions claimed avoided arrest because of Schaaf referred to “wanted aliens,” not necessarily criminals. She also accused Schwab, the former ICE spokesman, of “contradicting himself.”