Former Homeland Security Secretary says Oakland mayor ‘within her rights’ in warning public about ICE raids

While the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning Bay Area communities about imminent raids by federal immigration agents last week, the department’s former secretary on Thursday said that Schaaf made the right call.

Speaking at an event in San Francisco, University of California President Janet Napolitano said that the Oakland mayor was “totally within her rights in making the statements she did.”

Schaaf has said publicly that she has no regrets about the warning, which was issued Saturday, but she has faced heavy criticism from ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan, who denounced her decision as “irresponsible” on Tuesday.

But Napolitano, who served as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, called Schaaf’s statements “courageous” and added that they are a “product of the change in ICE policy” dictating that “anyone in the country who is undocumented is fair game.”

“That really disrupts immigrant communities,” she said. “To me it’s bad law enforcement policy and it’s bad immigration policy.”

Napolitano spoke to reporters after a San Francisco scholarship fundraiser in memory of Gabe Zimmerman, the former director of community outreach for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who lost his life in a 2011 assassination attempt on his boss.

In a statement released Thursday, ICE said that officers took 232 people into custody for “violating federal immigration laws in the San Francisco area of responsibility”– which extends north from Bakersfield to the Oregon border — in a four-day operation that ended on Wednesday.

Of those detained, ICE said that 180 were “either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United states, or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally.”

The agency also reported that 115 had “prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses” or had “past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.”

Homan said Schaaf’s warning increased risks faced by his officers and made “clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold.”

In a White House press briefing on Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she thought it was “outrageous that a mayor would circumvent federal authorities” and agreed that “making a move such as that” put immigration officers in danger. She added that Schaaf’s decision is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, immigration attorneys in San Francisco working to provide legal counsel to detainees in the recent raids said that at least 10 people were detained in Napa, one in San Jose, and at least one in San Francisco.

Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Laura Waxmann
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Laura Waxmann

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