One mayor of a so-called “sanctuary city” is concerned about reports that federal immigration officials are gearing up for a major sweep of illegal immigrants in such cities. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Thursday that such reports have the city’s residents nervous, but she defends their “legal rights” to be a sanctuary city, and said she would willingly go to jail in defense of that policy.

Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan is preparing to take action in California, where the entire state has been declared a “sanctuary state.” Homan says the policy undermines public safety, and that he would soon “conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work-sites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community.”

KTVU reports that Schaaf says those reports have raised “the level of fear and anxiety in this community [to] unconscionable levels.”

Sanctuary cities like Schaaf’s have policies which limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Asked if she was willing to defend those policies when faced with jail time, Schaaf said, “Yes!”

Schaaf said:”We’re very clear that our values are to protect all of our residents regardless of where we come from. We want to protect families, not tear them apart. We are exercising our legal right to be a sanctuary city. The fact that the federal government is suggesting that it is actively retaliating against jurisdictions that are exercising their right to have sanctuary policies – that is what is illegal.”

The Oakland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to make it clear that the city’s Police Department won’t provide any assistance, including traffic support, to ICE officials conducting raids in the city. Schaaf supported the decision, telling KTVU: “Our policy is that Oakland is hands off.”

City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said, “It is not acceptable for the Oakland administration to collude with ICE, as this federal agency is targeting non-criminals, harassing people based on their national origin, and undermining our justice system. [Homan] under Trump has publicly stated that his intention is to strike fear into communities, and now he is targeting California and cities like Oakland.”

On Wednesday evening, ICE Director Homan released a statement in response:

The politicians who crafted this proposal either do not understand – or simply choose to ignore – basic facts. Just like other federal law enforcement agencies, ICE officers and agents are sworn to uphold federal law and arrest those in violation of the law. It is wrong and deeply offensive to impugn the integrity of the thousands of men and women law enforcement officers of ICE by accusing them of being racists, harassers, and underminers of the judicial system — all for doing their sworn duty to enforce the law.

If members of the Oakland city council are truly concerned about undermining the rule of law and about public safety, perhaps they should look in the mirror. Sanctuary cities knowingly and intentionally release criminal aliens, who are already in the country in violation of the law, back onto the streets where they can reoffend in the very communities they live in – threatening public safety. Further, because these policies prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, our officers are forced to make arrests in the community, where there is increased risk to the public and law enforcement officers, and where ICE will likely encounter other illegal aliens that weren’t previously on our radar. So in fact, sanctuary policies do the opposite of what the politicians claim they do. It defies common sense to demand that ICE focus efforts only on criminal aliens while at the same time limiting our access to the jails. Fewer jail arrests mean more arrests on the street, and that also requires more resources.

Finally, for politicians to prohibit one law enforcement agency from assisting another law enforcement agency with a public safety mission, such as traffic support, is unconscionable and poses dangers for local communities and for the brave men and women who carry the badge. It also sends a message to the community that encourages disrespect and interference in lawful ICE operations. I am saddened by the Oakland city council’s obvious lack of concern for law enforcement officers’ well-being and their careless disregard for their own responsibility to protect public safety. Those who put politics and their political ambitions over public safety and officer safety should talk to the victims of crimes perpetrated by criminal aliens to put the decisions they make into perspective.

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