Truth is a ca­su­alty at ICE

An agency spokesman quits in protest of a whop­per told by top fed­eral of­fi­cials.

The Washington Post - - POWER POST -

THE TOP of­fi­cial at Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, whose stock in trade is tough-guy dou­ble-speak on de­por­ta­tion, oc­ca­sion­ally wan­ders into the ter­ri­tory of out­landish false­hoods, of­ten in the ser­vice of the idea that Amer­i­cans should be very afraid. That was the case last month when Thomas D. Ho­man, ICE’s deputy di­rec­tor (and, in the ab­sence of a di­rec­tor, the agency’s de facto No. 1) sug­gested that more than 800 “crim­i­nal aliens” were at large in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia be­cause the mayor of Oak­land had tipped them off.

That was a ris­i­ble ex­ag­ger­a­tion ap­par­ently trig­gered by Mr. Ho­man’s wrath that the mayor, Libby Schaaf, a Demo­crat, had an­nounced that ICE planned raids to ar­rest un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants across the Bay Area in late Fe­bru­ary. It was also the sort of blithe fic­tion the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion usu­ally ped­dles without pub­lic push­back from ca­reer civil ser­vants. Not this time.

This week, ICE’s own spokesman in San Francisco re­signed in protest of Mr. Ho­man’s false as­ser­tion, which was sec­onded by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions. “I quit be­cause I didn’t want to per­pet­u­ate mis­lead­ing facts,” James Sch­wab, the ICE of­fi­cial, told the San Francisco Chron­i­cle. He said that when he told his su­pe­ri­ors that “the in­for­ma­tion was wrong, they asked me to de­flect, and I didn’t agree with that.”

Ms. Schaaf is­sued her warn­ing that ICE raids were im­mi­nent on Feb. 24, just be­fore agents fanned out in search of some 1,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants with mis­de­meanor or felony records. Her ac­tion was ill-ad­vised; while the mayor said she ob­jected in prin­ci­ple to sweeps that would in­evitably en­snare some im­mi­grants with un­blem­ished records, she might have put some agents in need­less peril.

In any event, how­ever, the ICE raids were more or less suc­cess­ful, pro­duc­ing 232 ar­rests of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, half of them with crim­i­nal records. That’s roughly in line with ex­pec­ta­tions; de­por­ta­tion sweeps gen­er­ally net just a frac­tion of the tar­geted sus­pects.

De­spite that, Mr. Ho­man blamed the mayor’s warn­ing for al­low­ing some — or even all, as he said a day later — of 800-odd im­mi­grants to es­cape cap­ture. Mr. Ses­sions then fanned the fires, as­sert­ing, “Those are 800 wanted crim­i­nals that are now at large in that com­mu­nity ... all be­cause of one ir­re­spon­si­ble ac­tion.” That was plain non­sense, as Mr. Sch­wab pointed out.

The broader con­text for the in­ci­dent is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fury at so-called sanc­tu­ary cities such as San Francisco and Oak­land, where of­fi­cials limit co­op­er­a­tion with ICE de­por­ta­tion agents in the in­ter­est of main­tain­ing ties with their im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties. In some cases that re­fusal to co­op­er­ate is ill-ad­vised, but of­ten even sanc­tu­ary ju­ris­dic­tions hand over dan­ger­ous felons who have served their sen­tences. Those who are shielded, in the sense that they are set free af­ter serv­ing jail time, tend to have com­mit­ted less-se­ri­ous crimes.

Heed­less of such dis­tinc­tions, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials such as Mr. Ho­man ap­pear to be­lieve they are in­volved in a sort of war. And in war, the first ca­su­alty is in­vari­ably the truth.

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