Over 200 undocumented immigrants were arrested and detained across Northern California during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids two weeks ago. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave an unprecedented public warning before the raids, and since has come into the national spotlight for her actions.
In a press release, ICE Acting Director Tom Homan called her actions “reckless,” saying that 864 “criminal aliens” remain at large thanks to the mayor’s “irresponsible decision.” The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing her actions, and this week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Schaaf: “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda?”
Schaaf shot back during a press conference, responding to Sessions. “How dare you,” she asked, “vilify members of our community?” She aruged that Sessions was distracting the American people from a failed immigration system and painting a distorted picture of Oaklanders to advance his “racist agenda.”
In the wake of Schaaf’s actions and the government’s intensified focus on sanctuary cities, the Bay Area immigrant community and its advocates are responding. Some say the mayor is helping; others feel her actions are painting a bullseye on Oakland. Activist Juan Prieto, who advocates on behalf of undocumented people, said immigrants are pawns in a political tug of war between Schaaf and the federal government.
With the U.S. Department of Justice now suing California over its sanctuary city laws, much hangs in the balance. Immigration attorney Jehan Laner Romero, of Pangea Legal Services, said that the state has to protect sanctuary jurisdictions. “If we didn’t have these protections, we would just basically be creating a funnel for people to go straight into ICE,” she said.
“Across the country people look at our communities to find out what they can do to stand up against Trump. So I think we on the one hand we stand as a target. But on another, we stand as a beacon. We stand as a beacon for kind of what’s going on in this administration, and standing up against that,” said Romero.