Citing “false” and “misleading” public statements by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan, the agency’s San Francisco spokesman, James Schwab, resigned on Monday.
Schwab told the Chronicle he couldn’t continue to do his job, as officials pressured him to deflect media questions by using so-called “alternative facts” about last month’s “Keep Safe” raid in Northern California.
What Trump administration officials said, again and again, was that about 800 undocumented immigrants evaded arrest during the operation — thanks to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Schaaf alerted the public on Feb. 24 about an upcoming raid. Officials arrested 232 suspected undocumented immigrants during the operation.
Schwab wanted officials to correct the claim of 800 undocumented immigrants evading arrest. He stated that he knew it to be far lower.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told The 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.”
Out of a target list of nearly 1,000 undocumented immigrants, Schwab said, the agency would never have been able to capture all of them — regardless of whether Schaaf warned the public.
Meanwhile, ICE has been backpedaling: The agency now claims it never said it would capture all of the targets. ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson said: “While we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact. While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.”
Schwab was right to follow his conscience and quit his job. He was also right to insist that a federal agency do its job.
Providing the public with truthful information is a basic responsibility of government — whether the Trump administration likes it or not.
— The San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 2018