“What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’ when a police cruiser comes into the neighbourhood”, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Thomas Homan said on Fox and Friends.
Over the weekend, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned residents that a sweeping immigration enforcement action was imminent. Days later ICE announced arresting more than 150 people across northern California, about half of whom had criminal convictions, but Mr Homan said about 864 “criminal aliens and public safety threats” had not been detained.
“I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision,” Mr Homan said in a statement, adding that “her reckless decision was based on her political agenda”.
The Trump administration’s promised immigration crackdown has collided with liberal policies in California, where cities and the state have enshrined so-called “sanctuary” laws that curtail local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with ICE or to enforce immigration laws. Donald Trump and senior administration officials has lambasted those laws, saying they undercut public safety.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety,” Mr Homan said. “Because these jurisdictions prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, they also force ICE officers to make more arrests out in the community”.
A defiant Ms Schaaf refused to back down.
“I do not regret sharing this information,” Ms Schaaf said in a statement. “It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe out community is safer when families stay together”.
Advocates of sanctuary laws argue they are designed to protect unauthorised immigrants who have not committed serious offenses. California’s newly enacted statewide law includes exemptions allowing local law enforcement to help ICE claim immigrants who have committed serious or violent felonies.
“We know that law-abiding residents live in fear of arrest or deportation every day,” Ms Schaaf said.
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