Explaining that he didn't “feel like fabricating the truth,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman James Schwab resigned over the agency's claim that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's warning precluded law enforcement from capturing 800 undocumented immigrants.
“I didn't feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against (Schaaf's) actions was the way to go about it,” Schwab said.
Schwab, who served as the spokesman for San Francisco, indicated he tried to get the agency to change the information it promoted but quit when that failed.
“I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn't agree with that,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Then I took some time and I quit.”
He was referring to an agency claim that when Schaaf warned of an impending ICE raid, she prevented the agency from locating 800 individuals.
But according to Schwab, that was an unrealistic estimate.
“We were never going to pick up that many people,” he said. "To say that 100 percent are dangerous criminals on the street, or that those people weren't picked up because of the misguided actions of the mayor, is just wrong.”
Schaff praised Schwab, portraying him as a truth-teller amid pressure to lie.
“Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard,” she said.
Jennifer Elzea, an ICE spokeswoman, similarly suggested that the 800 figure was too high.
She reportedly referred to ICE acting Director Tom Homan's quote, in which he said, “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.”
The controversy came amid a broader push in which the Trump administration cracked down on immigration in California.
Just last week, the Justice Department sued the Golden State, arguing its so-called “sanctuary” laws violated the Constitution. Gov. Jerry Brown slammed the lawsuit as one of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' “political stunts” intended to “divide and polarize America.”
On Tuesday, Trump accused California of putting the “entire nation at risk”:
California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk. Thousands of dangerous & violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
While announcing a raid that yielded 232 arrests in Northern California, ICE suggested that California's laws increased the likelihood that immigrants without criminal convictions would face detainment.
“ICE has no choice but to continue to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work sites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” the agency said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, however, that he thought “states and local jurisdictions have the right to determine which policies are best for their communities.”