ICE spokesman in San Francisco quits, citing 'burden' of defending 'false' statements by Trump officials
James Schwab has stepped down as spokesman for the San Francisco division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), saying Monday he could no longer defend or "deflect" from "false" and "misleading" statements by top U.S. officials, notably Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE acting Director Thomas Homan. "I quit because I didn't want to perpetuate misleading facts," he told the San Francisco 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."
Specifically, Schwab was talking about Homan's assertion, repeated by Sessions and President Trump, that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's (D) warning about an ICE raid had left "864 criminal aliens and public safety threats" at large. ICE launched an immigration sweep on Feb. 25, and Schaaf had announced the raid the night before, infuriating the Trump administration. ICE picked up 232 suspected undocumented immigrants, but said it had targeted 1,000, blaming Schaaf for the difference.
"Personally I think her actions were misguided and not responsible," Schwab told CNN. "But to blame her for 800 dangerous people out there is just false." ICE was "never going to pick up that many people," he told the Chronicle, and "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." Schwab said he had "never been in this situation in 16 almost 17 years in government," and "I just couldn't bear the burden — continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false."
An ICE spokesman in Washington, Jennifer Elzea, referred the Chronicle to Homan's statement blaming Schaaf for the "864 criminal aliens and public safety threats" not picked up in the dragnet. Peter Weber
You may have read about some of the recent arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): the Polish-born doctor in Kalamazoo, a legal resident who has lived in the U.S. since he was 5; the Arizona father first brought to the U.S. at age 1, to be deported despite a 5-year-old son with cancer; the college chemistry instructor in Kansas who arrived from Bangladesh 30 years go and was arrested last month while taking his daughter to school; the Virginia mother deported to El Salvador after 11 years because of a traffic stop; the New York immigration activist, Ravi Ragbir, detained in January, earning ICE a rebuke from a federal judge.
President Trump promised to unshackle ICE, and while ICE arrested slightly more immigrants with any sort of criminal conviction (including driving without a license) in fiscal 2017 — 105,736 — immigration agents arrested more than twice as many immigrants with no criminal history, 37,734, The Washington Post reports. The ACLU says ICE appears to be "increasingly targeting activists who publicly oppose or resist the Trump administration's anti-immigrant agenda," stretching the First Amendment.
ICE officials say every arrest or detainment is a legitimate use of law enforcement discretion, and immigration judges make the final decision on deportation, and the Post notes that last year's ICE arrests are actually lower than in the first years of the Obama administration. But critics say ICE agents, given more discretion on who to detain, are picking off low-hanging fruit to meet Trump's quotas, deporting people whose only infraction is being in the U.S. illegally — generally a civil, not criminal, violation.
Former acting ICE director John Swanweg tells the Post there's a question of public safety. ICE has the resources to deport about 200,000 immigrants a year, he says, and "when you remove all priorities, it's like a fisherman who could just get his quota anywhere," and instead of ICE agents going after "the bad criminals, now their job is to fill the beds." Peter Weber
In March, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, then secretary of homeland security, publicly floated separating parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border from their children and detaining them in separate facilities, as a punitive way to deter illegal immigration from violence-torn Central America. The plan was shelved after a public backlash and amid low immigration numbers, which the White House credited to the "Trump effect," or deterrence through aggressive arrests and tough talk.
Now, the number of immigrants arrested crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is rising — to 29,086 in November, including 7,018 families, from 11,677 apprehensions in April — and the policy of splitting up families is back, approved by the White House and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and awaiting approval by Kelly's successor, new DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, The Washington Post and The New York Times report. It is still controversial, even among some immigration hardliners at DHS, but the idea has support in the Trump administration. "People aren't going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry," a DHS official tells the Post.
Even without a formal policy, at least 150 familes have been split up this year, the Times reports, citing the case of José Fuentes, a Salvadoran who presented himself to immigration officials at the border with his 1-year-old son, Mateo, saying they feared death from rampant gang violence. Fuentes was sent to California and his son housed in Texas. For six days, Fuentes and his wife, Olivia Acevedo, who is in Mexico with their other son, didn't know where Mateo was.
ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson told the Times that Mateo was separated from his dad "out of concern for the child's safety and security" because Fuentes did not have sufficient proof he was Mateo's father. Acevado said she was finally able to see Mateo last week in a five-minute video call, and he cried the entire call. "It's a form of torture," she said. Peter Weber
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be sending agents to a national food chain in the near future as part of a series of nationwide workplace raids, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The stated goal of the raids, according to ICE documents viewed by The Daily Beast, is to target employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers and pay them below minimum wage.
The impending investigations against the unnamed food chain are part of ICE's recently announced plan to quadruple its workplace raids. Franchise owners targeted in these efforts will likely be charged with "harboring illegal aliens." ICE has additionally apparently been making plans to go after specific targets. An ICE official who spoke to The Daily Beast said, "These [workers] are basically being used as slave labor."
That same official also claimed that undocumented workers picked up in the raids who agree to testify against their employers could be allowed to temporarily stay in the the country, contradicting statements by ICE's acting chief, Tom Homan, who has previously said that undocumented workers detained in workplace raids would be deported.
Under the Trump administration, arrests of non-criminal undocumented immigrants have doubled, and immigration arrests as a whole have increased by 43 percent in 2017. The number of deportations, however, has dropped this year, though there is a backlog of more than 600,000 pending immigration cases in the U.S. court system. Kelly O'Meara Morales