ICE spokesman quits over Ses­sions’ ‘false’ state­ments

James Sch­wab blasts ‘mis­lead­ing facts’ on im­mi­grant ar­rests.

The Palm Beach Post - - BACK OF THE FRONT - By Mea­gan Flynn, Avi Selk

A spokesman for U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment has re­signed over what he de­scribed as “false” and “mis­lead­ing” state­ments made by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and ICE act­ing di­rec­tor Thomas Ho­man.

James Sch­wab worked out of the agency’s San Fran­cisco of­fice un­til he abruptly quit last week. He said he had been told to “de­flect” ques­tions about the Oak­land mayor’s in­ter­fer­ence with an ICE raid last month and to re­fer reporters to state­ments from Ses­sions and Ho­man that sug­gested that hun­dreds of “crim­i­nals” (“crim­i­nal aliens,” Ho­man called them) es­caped cap­ture in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia be­cause the mayor tipped them off.

“I quit be­cause I didn’t want to per­pet­u­ate mis­lead­ing facts,” Sch­wab 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.”

Ses­sions, Ho­man and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sharply crit­i­cized Oak­land Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Demo­crat, for is­su­ing a public warn­ing in late Fe­bru­ary about an im­mi­nent ICE raid through­out the re­gion. At the time, Schaaf said she wanted to pro­tect “law-abid­ing” im­mi­grants from “the con­stant threat of ar­rest and de­por­ta­tion.”

Sch­wab also crit­i­cized the mayor’s warn­ing as “mis­guided,” but he told Fox af­fil­i­ate KTVU af­ter re­sign­ing that ICE ended up cap­tur­ing 232 sus­pected un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants — even more than of­fi­cials had orig­i­nally ex­pected. About half of the peo­ple picked up had felonies or mis­de­meanors on their records, of­fi­cials say.

In the raid’s af­ter­math, of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton had re­peat­edly sug­gested that hun­dreds of crim­i­nals had es­caped be­cause of the mayor’s ac­tions.

Ho­man said in a news re­lease that “864 crim­i­nal aliens and public safety threats re­main at large in the com­mu­nity, and I have to be­lieve that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s ir­re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sion.”

The ICE di­rec­tor went fur­ther the next day, ac­cord­ing to the Chron­i­cle, when he said “there’s 800 that we are un­able to lo­cate be­cause of that warn­ing” — es­sen­tially blam­ing all the es­capees on the mayor.

Then, last week, Ses­sions gave a speech in Sacra­mento. “How dare you?” he asked the mayor. “Those are 800 wanted crim­i­nals that are now at large in that com­mu­nity, 800 wanted crim­i­nals that ICE will now have to pur­sue by other means, with more dif­fi­culty, in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, all be­cause of one ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tion.”

Th­ese fig­ures prop­a­gated across news out­lets. At a cam­paign rally over the week­end in Penn­syl­va­nia, Trump told the crowd that ICE had been pre­pared to ar­rest “close to 1,000 peo­ple” but got “a frac­tion” of that, thanks to the mayor — and called Schaaf a dis­grace.

As the re­gional ICE spokesman, Sch­wab said this week, he had wanted to set the record straight. The of­fi­cials from Wash­ing­ton had been re­fer­ring to the raid’s tar­get list of about 1,000 peo­ple, he said, but im­mi­gra­tion sweeps never net any­where close to the to­tal num­ber of tar­gets.

“I didn’t feel like fab­ri­cat­ing the truth to de­fend our­selves against [the mayor’s] ac­tions was the way to go about it,” he told the Chron­i­cle. “We were never go­ing to pick up that many peo­ple. 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.”

But if reporters asked him about Ho­man’s and Ses­sions’ com­ments, he said, his su­pe­ri­ors at ICE told him to sim­ply “de­flect to pre­vi­ous state­ments” from those top of­fi­cials.

“It’s the job of a public af­fairs of­fi­cer to of­fer trans­parency for the agency you work for,” Sch­wab told the Chron­i­cle. “I’ve never been in a sit­u­a­tion when I’ve been asked to ig­nore the facts be­cause it was more con­ve­nient.”

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