OAKLAND — Hours after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf publicly announced ICE activity was imminent in the Bay Area, including her hometown, she spoke publicly for the first time stressing that “credible sources” told her the actions would target civil deportations, not undocumented immigrants wanted for crimes other than their residency.
As of early Sunday afternoon, however, Schaaf said her office had received no notices of immigration arrests or raids. Speaking in English and Spanish in a Fruitvale conference room Sunday afternoon, the mayor said her actions did not obstruct justice, but she did say she consulted with an attorney before making the decision to go public Saturday night.
“I did seek legal counsel about what my obligations are in this situation, and while I’m very committed to being a law-abiding citizen I feel confident that my sharing this information — because I did not receive it through official channels — is legal; and frankly, it is my ethical obligation,” Schaaf said.
The mayor got her first inkling of the ICE actions early last week and got further confirmation as the week progressed. She spoke to more than three sources before taking that information and sharing it with her community partners who serve immigrant communities. After consulting legal advice Saturday morning, Schaaf decided to go public Saturday afternoon before releasing her statement shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday.
The mayor on Sunday said she did not have specific details of targeted locations or communities, only that the information was gleaned “not through official channels” and those people “cited extremely credible sources for their information.”
The enforcement action would be “Bay Area-wide” in scope, Schaaf said, and she warned other mayors. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he has learned of a “few isolated arrests,” but nothing widespread.
“The Administration’s indiscriminate approach to immigration enforcement only serves to intensify fear in our community. These fears are exacerbated by recent rumors that additional ICE operations may be imminent,” Liccardo said in a written statement. “We have not yet been able to confirm the veracity of rumors about any widespread ICE operations in the Bay Area. Regardless of the truth of these rumors, my message to our immigrant residents remains the same: We have your back.”
Liccardo added that San Jose police do not participate in ICE operations. ICE representatives did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment Sunday, but a spokesperson on Saturday told ABC7 News: “There are ICE operations every day, and it is unclear what the mayor is referring to.”
As of Sunday afternoon, one Bay Area immigrant rights group said ICE had made “targeted deportation” arrests of individuals in Pinole, El Sobrante, Napa and Atwater.
“ICE usually doesn’t work on weekends, especially Sunday, so they are definitely ramping up their tactics,” said Maricela Gutiérrez, executive director of the Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network. “What we’re seeing is a war on immigrant families carried out by ICE.”
Mayor Schaaf reminded immigrant communities Sunday that they were not obligated to open the door if ICE officials knock, amid other rights and advice she shared.
“We want to acknowledge that spreading rumors of ICE activity has been used as a tactic to strike fear and paralysis in the immigrant communities. This is something I thought about very carefully before bringing this information forward. But due to the reliability of my sources and the fact I received this from multiple sources I felt that it was my duty to share the information,” the mayor said.
Schaaf brought up the plight of Maria Sanchez, a Highland Hospital oncology nurse who was deported last year to Mexico, leaving behind three daughters.
“Maria was a law-abiding citizen who along with her husband was deported, leaving her children behind in Oakland,” Schaaf said. “Oakland is full of Marias.
“These immigrants make our community stronger and safer,” Schaaf said. “We will continue to dispel the ugly myth that many are perpetuating about our immigrant community.”
ICE has led well-publicized immigration raids in California over the past year. In late January, immigration agents raided 77 businesses around the Bay Area. Schaaf has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration. When the City Council in January voted unanimously to pass a measure against local officials cooperating with ICE, Schaaf said she was willing to go to jail to defend the Oakland’s sanctuary city policies.
Also speaking at the Sunday news conference was Emma Paulino with Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership, who said calls to her agency’s hotline have increased since the mayor’s warning. Most callers have asked for advice on what to do.
“We have to be strong. We want to invite the community not to panic,” she said. “We want to be prepared, and we want to be all together.
“(Callers) are saying, whether this is true or not, the environment that we are living in right now is so difficult already, especially for our children. … Our children have so much trauma already,” Paulino said. “Sometimes when the kids go to school they are not sure whether (their parents) will be at home when they get back.”
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