More than 850 illegal immigrants managed to elude deportation officers conducting operations in Northern California this week, and the head of the deportation force on Tuesday blamed Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for helping some of them escape.
More than 150 migrants were nabbed in the operations, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Half of them had criminal convictions, ICE said.
One of the men arrested was a 38-year-old Mexican who belongs to the Sureno gang, and who had been deported four times before, authorities said. Others had weapons, domestic violence and drunken driving convictions.
But some 864 criminals ICE was seeking remain at large in the Oakland and San Francisco region, ICE said.
The operation gained attention after Ms. Schaaf issued a very public warning to her community that ICE was making arrests. She said she wanted them to be aware and to take needed steps to protect themselves.
Thomas D. Homan, the top official at ICE, said by doing that she put his officers at risk, and likely endangered her own citizens by giving some criminals a chance to escape.
“I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision,” Mr. Homan said.
ICE said one of the people who eluded them was a Honduran arrested for transporting cocaine and for sex with a child under 16. Another Mexican had drug and firearms convictions.
Both of those migrants had been in police custody before but the authorities refused to hold them for pickup by ICE, the agency said. Both have been deported before on multiple occasions, but managed to sneak back in.
Ms. Schaaf defended her decision earlier this week by saying she had an obligation to protect the city’s residents — “particularly our most vulnerable.”
“I believe it is my duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning,” she said.
She also warned city businesses that California law prohibited them from cooperating with ICE officers, and the law actively bars ICE from going into employee-only areas of businesses.
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