Immigration Agency Rails Against Oakland Mayor’s Warning of Raids

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SAN FRANCISCO — The battle between the Trump administration and California officials over immigration policy reached a new level of acrimony on Wednesday as federal officials accused Oakland’s mayor of helping undocumented immigrants flee the authorities by warning the public about a large-scale arrest operation.

Mayor Libby Schaaf had announced on Saturday that she had learned through “unofficial channels” that the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, was planning arrests in the area.

“I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation,” she said in a statement that circulated widely on social media over the weekend. “I believe it is my duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.”

The mayor’s warnings proved correct. Since Sunday night, ICE officers have arrested more 150 people in Northern California in an operation ICE said was targeting “public safety threats.”

But ICE officials said the mayor’s warning jeopardized officers’ safety, and said that hundreds more undocumented immigrants they had planned to arrest may have eluded the agents after the tipoff.

In a statement, the agency’s acting director, Thomas D. Homan, called Ms. Schaaf’s announcement a “reckless decision” made for political purposes.

Speaking on Wednesday morning on Fox News, Mr. Homan said Ms. Schaaf’s warning was “no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘Police!’ when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to an entire community.”

He blamed the mayor’s warning for agents not being able to detain 800 people they had targeted.

James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE in San Francisco, said agents were targeting around 1,000 people, which appeared to be one of the largest raids since President Trump took office.

“It’s larger than normal for one operation,” Mr. Schwab said.

Around half of those arrested had previous criminal convictions in addition to immigration violations, he said.

Immigration advocates have occasionally sought to warn of rumors of impending ICE raids, but Ms. Schaaf’s decision was striking because it came from the mayor of one California’s largest cities.

Ms. Schaaf on Tuesday said she did not regret issuing the warning.

“My statement on Saturday was meant to give all residents time to learn their rights and know their legal options,” she said. “It was my intention that one mother, or one father, would use the information to help keep their family together.”

Like a number of Bay Area municipalities, Oakland considers itself a so-called sanctuary city and places limits on local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Sanctuary policies differ from city to city, but generally have provisions for cooperation with federal law enforcement in cases involving serious crimes.

An ICE statement said a number of the people arrested in the raids had lengthy criminal records, including Armando Nuñez-Salgado. The agency said he was a “documented Sureño gang member” who had been deported four times and who over the past 18 years had accumulated criminal convictions — it listed burglary and hit-and-run causing injury — in California resulting in more than 15 years in prison.

Mr. Schwab would not confirm or deny that the Bay Area raids were continuing, but said the agency would issue a statement once the operation was completed.

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