Oakland residents and others demonstrate March 7 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Sacrament. Protesters said: “Sessions go home. We won’t be bullied.” Photo courtesy of Jean Quan on Facebook.
Local residents and community leaders are responding with redoubled determination after Mayor Libby Schaaf and the city have come under attack by President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE Director Thomas Homan for opposing local ICE deportation raids and defending Oakland as a sanctuary city.
“Who would ever have thought we would see the day the president of the United States would be attacking institutions,” like the City of Oakland, the State of California and even the FBI and the CIA, said community activist Jose Dorado.
“It’s a real showdown,” he said. “There are certainly a number of sanctuary cities, and California is a sanctuary state, but we have made our sanctuary city resolution one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the nation.”
Oakland’s resolution forbids the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department from cooperating or collaborating with ICE and also provides funding to support a rapid response legal team to go to locations where ICE raids are in progress.
The sanctuary city policy was adopted by the City Council with major community backing and the leadership of Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo.
A resolution passed last year was ignored by the Oakland Police Department in August when it provided support for an ICE raid. Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Mayor Schaaf defended the collaboration with ICE.
In response, the council passed a stronger and more clearly worded resolution prohibiting OPD from collaborating with ICE, including providing traffic control or logistical support for raids.
Retaliating against the strong council resolution and the intense criticism of the mayor and police chief for collaborating with ICE, some members of the council unsuccessfully attempted to remove Councilmember Brooks as head of the Public Safety Committee.
The Trump administration’s attacks on Mayor Schaaf began after she sent out a tweet Saturday, Feb. 27, warning the community of impending ICE raids.
“As Mayor of Oakland,” she wrote, “I am sharing this information publicly not to panic our residents, but to protect them.”
ICE Director Homan blasted Schaaf, saying her tweet enabled over 800 “criminals” to avoid capture.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech in Sacramento criticizing California, singling out Oakland’s mayor.
“So, here’s my message for Mayor Schaaf: how dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda,” he said.
Escalating the attack and threatening reprisals, President Trump called Schaaf “a disgrace.”
“They had close to 1,000 people ready to be gotten, ready to be taken off the streets… they say 85 percent of them are criminals and had criminal records. And the mayor of Oakland went and warned them, scattered, so instead of taking in a thousand, they took a fraction of that.
“And it’s certainly something we are looking at with respect to her individually.”
Schaaf told the media she would be willing to go to jail to help protect Oakland residents against ICE raids.
The White House’s accusations against Schaaf and Oakland lost steam this week when a Northern California ICE spokesman resigned, saying he was not willing to parrot the false allegations.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” James 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.”
In Oakland, the attacks are backfiring. Like many other community members and activists, Dorado stands with Schaaf on this issue and defends her against the “Trumpists.”
“I don’t always agree with Libby Schaaf, but a whole lot of people are giving her a lot of props for (taking this stand),” he said.
Expressing mixed feelings, Claudine Tong wrote on Facebook that Schaaf “is getting so much good publicity from (this).”
“Too bad it won’t keep her from letting developers and gentrifiers take our homes or having Public Works destroy homeless people’s belongings and shelters while not providing the city services they are entitled to,” she wrote.
In a statement issued this week, Kaplan denounced the “lies” of the head of ICE, Sessions and Trump.
“They are not targeting dangerous criminals,” she said. “The administration is using an ancient tool of tyrants and bigots throughout history who seek to create fear of ‘the other’ in order to justify mistreatment of minority communities.”
“They are not upset about the ‘leaks,’” she said. “The feds pretend to be angry about the leak of internal confidential ICE information. However, in all their angry comments, they have not expressed any intention to or plan to find the leak.” Instead, they denounce “the person who received the leak, rather than whomever committed the leaking.”
Further, they gave their raids the name “Keep Safe,” said Kaplan, “but they are not about keeping people safe.”
Looking to the immediate future, School Board member Roseanne Torres told the Oakland Post the Oakland Unified School District is a sanctuary district, but more steps must be taken to protect Oakland parents and children who are living in fear that their families could be torn apart.
“Families are afraid,” she said. “We have to be very clear about how to get our children to school” when raids are threatened.
“We’re going this year to another level, “she said. Principals and school staff are asking parents how they will get their children to and from school if the parents are afraid to leave the house.
Parents have to face the question, she said: “Who is going to take care of your kids if you get picked up?”
“We’re living in a police state,” Torres continued. “There is no place to hide. We’re an example of what is coming in a lot of places.”