The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in San Francisco has resigned after becoming frustrated by Trump administration statements about a recent sweep targeting illegal immigration.
James Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that top officials repeatedly said roughly 800 immigrants escaped arrest because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff's Feb. 24 warning about the four-day operation.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab, 38, told the Chronicle. “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.”
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Schwab said the statements were misleading because the agency never captures everyone on its target lists.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had learned the agency failed to make 800 arrests because of the mayor's warning.
The federal agency's acting director, Thomas Homan, said Schaaf's warning caused about 800 "criminals" to elude capture.
In his speech, Sessions said: "According to Acting Director Homan, ICE failed to make 800 arrests that they would have made if the mayor had not acted as she did. Those are 800 wanted aliens that are now at large in that community — most are wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more dangerous situations, all because of one mayor’s irresponsible action."
Schwab countered that the statements were misleading because the agency never captures everyone on its target lists.
ICE defended its stance in a statement to NBC News following Schwab's exit.
"Even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk and as Director Homan stated, while we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact," ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson said. "While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well."
Schaaf praised Schwab's actions:
“I commend Mr. Schwab for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie. Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard.”
Referring to Scwab's comments on remarks made by Homan and Sessions, the DOJ said:
"He isn’t disputing the number. And the AG’s remarks say they were “wanted aliens” not criminal but of course everyone in this country illegally has broken the law."
The DOJ also released the following statement on Schaaf:
"Given the mayor’s own comments, its strange to say she wasn’t trying to hinder federal law enforcement’s ability to pick up these wanted aliens. She has said as much herself that that was the purpose of her comments"