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California mayor gives illegal immigrants heads-up about impending ICE operation

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf answered questions at a news conference Saturday after warning residents that ICE was preparing an operation to arrest illegal immigrants across the Bay area "within the next 24 hours." (Image source: San Francisco Gate video screenshot)

A California mayor issued a warning to her city's residents Saturday evening that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was preparing an operation to arrest illegal immigrants across the Bay area "within the next 24 hours."

What's the story?

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf claimed she received tips of the coming ICE operation from "credible sources," according to her statement posted on social media.

Schaaf wrote that she received information that warranted a public alert. She claimed her aim was not intended to cause panic among residents, but rather to "protect them."

Schaaf vowed that police are prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration officials and that strict protocols were "in place to protect our students and families."

"Additionally, California state law prohibits business owners from assisting ICE agents in immigration enforcement and bars federal agents from accessing employee-only areas," she said.

"ICE has two branches," one that investigates "multi-state criminal activities" and one that "simply enforces civil deportation actions," Schaaf explained during a news conference when asked why she was willing to interfere with ICE arrests.

"My understanding is that this activity is on the civil side," she continued. "Obviously, as mayor of Oakland, my priority is safety, and that is safety for everyone."

What did ICE say?

"There are ICE operations every day and it is unclear what the mayor is referring to," ICE officials said in a statement.

Was her warning illegal?

Lara Bazelon, an associate law professor at the University of San Francisco, said that the mayor's warning was likely vague enough to keep her out of legal trouble.

“She’s basically saying that in the next day ICE is going to be conducting some kind of operation,” Bazelon told the San Francisco Gate. “She doesn’t say what kind, which areas will be targeted or which people will be affected.”

Had she provided specific details and instructed them to leave or hide, she may have been obstructing justice, UC Berkeley law Professor Charles Weisselberg said.

What else?

Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies called the mayor's statement a "political stunt."

“This is pretty irresponsible on the part of a public official,” Vaughan said. “To the extent this results in people being able to hide from ICE and shelter in the community inevitably creates more victims. It also creates fear in the community. She may or may not have good information.”


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