A spokesman for America’s immigration agency has resigned over what he called misleading official statements about immigrants eluding arrest.
The departure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman James Schwab is the latest volley in a dispute between California and the federal government over a contested immigration raid last month.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf incurred the wrath of federal officials for warning residents of her city that a sweeping ICE action was imminent. Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the acting director of ICE were among those lambasting Ms Schaaf and saying she had allowed hundreds of dangerous criminals to evade authorities.
But Mr Schwab said those statements were disingenuous, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he resigned after refusing to advance what he called falsehoods.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Mr Schwab told the Chronicle, which first reported the news of his exit. “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”.
In an official statement after the wave of arrests, acting ICE director Thomas Homan said 864 “criminal aliens” remained at large and added that “some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision”.
“There's 800 we were unable to locate because of that warning”, Mr Homan said in an appearance on Fox during which he likened Ms Schaff to a “gang lookout”.
That claim was echoed and expanded upon by other Trump officials who placed the blame squarely on Ms Schaaf. Mr Sessions said “ICE failed to make 800 arrests that they would have made if the mayor had not acted as she did” in announcing a federal lawsuit against California. The President subsequently blamed Ms Schaaf for ICE arresting around 150 people “instead of taking in a thousand”.
But Mr Schwab said it was misleading to attribute the lack of arrests to Ms Schaaf, telling the Chronicle that “we were never going to pick up” every targeted immigrant.
“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”, he told the Chronicle.
An ICE spokeswoman said that while she could not give an exact number for how many targeted immigrants evaded arrest because of Ms Schaaf's warning, “it clearly had an impact”.
“While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well”, spokeswoman Liz Johnson said.