Local ICE spokesman resigns over Jeff Sessions comments

Nellie Chapman
March 13, 2018

Although James Schwab did not discuss the specifics of his resignation, sources told the San Francisco Chronicle in an article published Monday that he was "frustrated" with the statements officials made arguing that 800 undocumented immigrants were able to avoid arrest because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a public warning about immigration raids the day before they began.

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

"The more people I have in the jail the less people I have to send out on the street to look for them", the official said, speaking on condition he not be named as part of a background briefing set up by the White House ahead of President Trump's trip to California Tuesday.

"I've never been in this situation in 16 nearly 17 years in government where someone asked me to deflect when we absolutely knew something was awry - when the data was not correct" he said. "Then I took some time and I quit", Schwab said.

"Those are 800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community - 800 wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more unsafe situations, all because of one mayor's irresponsible action", Sessions had said.

"Director Homan and the Attorney General said there were 800 people at large and free to roam because of the actions of the Oakland Mayor", Schwab told CNN. "It's a false statement because we never pick up 100 percent of our targets. To say that 100% are risky criminals on the street, or that those people weren't picked up because of the misguided actions of the mayor, is just wrong".

Schwab also criticized the mayor's warning as "misguided", but he told Fox affiliate KTVU after resigning that ICE ended up capturing 232 suspected undocumented immigrants - even more than officials had originally expected.

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According to the Washington Post, Schwab was previously a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Reserve Element, a public affairs office for the NASA Ames Research Center, and a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Defense, before joining ICE in 2015.

And Schwab's resignation comes at a time when the federal government and the city of Oakland are in a heated war of words: The head of ICE and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have both accused Schaaf of acting like a gang lookout, warning the bad guys that police are coming to give them time to run away.

Schwab thought the figure stated was too high and reportedly wanted the agency to take it back. The operation began on February 25 and ended up netting 232 undocumented immigrants over the next several days across the northern part of the state.

"It's the job of a public affairs officer to offer transparency for the agency you work for", he told the Chronicle. "Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard", the mayor said. But, when he brought his concerns to ICE, he said they told him to direct reporters to statements ICE or Homan had already made - to "deflect to previous statements", as he put it. "I've never been in a situation when I've been asked to ignore the facts because it was more convenient".

"That's not true. We know the Trump administration is full of liars", he said.

Sanctuary cities are actually enticing more people to pay smugglers to help them make the unsafe trek north, not only putting people at risk but also enriching the smuggling cartels themselves, a senior administration official said Monday.

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