California ICE Spokesperson Quits Over ‘Misleading’ Arrest Claims

By Alfonso Serrano Mar 13, 2018

The San Francisco spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resigned on Monday (March 12), citing "false" statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan regarding immigration raids made in Northern California in February. The announcement comes as President Donald Trump visits the United States-Mexico border near San Diego today (March 13) to inspect eight prototypes for his "big beautiful border wall."

James Schwab said he resigned because he could not maintain mischaracterizations made by Sessions that some 800 undocumented immigrants evaded ICE arrest in February after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a public warning about imminent ICE operation in the Bay Area. 

Last week, while visiting Sacramento to announce a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit against California’s policies that protect immigrants from deportation, Session addressed the Oakland immigration raids. "Those are 800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community," Sessions said.

But Schwab labeled the Sessions announcement, and a similar one made by Homan, as misleading—he understood the number of immigrants who evaded arrest to be much lower—and wanted the agency to correct the figure. He also said the portrayal of all immigrants as dangerous criminals was misleading, and that ICE instructed him to "deflect" questions from the media.

"I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts," Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. "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."

He added: "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."

Schawb’s resignation comes amid a pitched battle between the Trump administration and California over the fate of immigrants. The DOJ sued California governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Bercerra last week over three state laws that grant immigrants protection from federal immigration authorities.

Sessions called the laws, which restrict law enforcement and private employers from cooperation with ICE, "a plain violation of common sense"—accusations that Brown and Bercerra have met with defiance. San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell called Sessions a "moron." California has some 35 "sanctuary" cities, and in recent years the state has approved financial aid, healthcare and driver’s licenses for immigrants of undocumented status.

On Tuesday, Trump is likely to encounter protest firsthand as he makes his first trip to California as president. He’s expected to visit several prototypes for his planned wall near the border at Otay Mesa, meet with border agents and address Marines in San Diego.

Despite an $18 billion price tag for the first phase of construction, Trump is determined to fulfill his border wall promise, according to White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "The president campaigned on this, he talked about it extensively and he’s the president and this is something that he is not going to back away from," she told reporters on Monday.

San Diego immigrants rights groups condemned Trump’s border plans and anti-immigration rhetoric on Monday. They were joined by councilperson Georgette Gómez, who said the city would fight the planned wall, "and we are going to do whatever it takes so that it doesn’t get built," she told The San Diego Union-Tribune.