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San Francisco ICE spokesman quits disputes agency claim that 800 eluded arrest

Issued: 2018-03-13

By Hamed Aleaziz



The San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resigned after the agency’s recent Northern California sweep, saying he couldn’t continue to do his job after Trump administration officials made false public statements about a key aspect of the operation.

James Schwab told The Chronicle on Monday that he was frustrated by repeated statements by officials, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that roughly 800 undocumented immigrants escaped arrest because of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Feb. 24 warning to the public about the four-day operation, issued the night before federal officers began staking out homes and knocking on doors.

Schwab wanted the agency to correct the number, which he understood to be far lower, and didn’t want to deflect media questions about it, he said.

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” said Schwab, 38, who was hired in 2015 and resigned last week. “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. Then I took some time and I quit.”

The Trump administration has filed a lawsuit seeking to undo California laws that extend protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally. The lawsuit was filed late Tuesday in Sacramento. It says three state laws intentionally undermine federal immigration law. Among other things, the legislation bars police from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities. Another law offers protection against workplace raids. The Justice Department says those laws hinder immigration authorities and are unconstitutional.

Schwab said the statements about immigrants evading arrest, which were widely quoted in an array of media outlets, were misleading “because we were not ever going to be able to capture 100 percent of the target list” of roughly 1,000 undocumented immigrants in Northern California.

“I didn’t feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against (Schaaf’s) actions was the way to go about it,” he said. “We were never going to pick up that many people. 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.”

ICE officials confirmed Schwab’s resignation, saying Monday that he “recently announced his departure” from the office of public affairs, but they would not discuss specifics, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.


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