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Excerpt: "The San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned over what he described as 'false' and 'misleading' statements made by top-ranking officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan."

ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan is seen at the agency's Washington headquarters in 2017. (photo: Salwan Georges/WP)
ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan is seen at the agency's Washington headquarters in 2017. (photo: Salwan Georges/WP)

ICE Spokesman Resigns, Citing 'False' Statements by Agency Chief, Sessions on Immigrant Arrests

By Meagan Flynn and Avi Selk, The Washington Post

13 March 18


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 D. 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 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.”

In statements after his resignation, ICE and the Justice Department did not directly challenge Schwab’s claims that their leaders made inaccurate public statements about the raid.

In fact, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington made another false claim when she denied to The Washington Post that Sessions had referred in a speech to “800 wanted criminals” escaping.

Sessions, Homan and President Trump sharply criticized Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for issuing a public warning in late February about an imminent ICE raid across 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 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 last weekend in Pennsylvania, President 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’s 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.”

As the days went by, he told CNN, “I just couldn’t bear the burden — continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false.”

So after a long career as a government spokesman — with stints at NASA and the U.S. Army before he joined ICE in 2015, according to his online résumé — Schwab quit.

He announced the decision “abruptly,” another ICE official told KTVU.

On Tuesday, ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson did not directly counter the former spokesman’s claims but backed away from the agency director’s previous statement that hundreds escaped because of the mayor.

“While we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact,” Johnson said. “While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.”

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Sarah Isgur Flores, did not challenge Schwab’s claims, either.

Instead, she referred to an inaccurate draft transcript of Sessions’s speech and inaccurately denied that the attorney general had spoken of “800 wanted criminals.”

“The AG said they were ‘wanted aliens’ not criminal,” Flores wrote to The Post.

Sessions was recorded saying “800 wanted criminals” at least twice in his speech.

On Monday, Schaaf applauded Schwab’s decision to resign.

“I commend Mr. Schwab for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie,” the mayor said in a statement to The Post. “Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard.” your social media marketing partner


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+4 # tedrey 2018-03-14 03:32
"About half of the people picked up had felonies or misdemeanors on their records."
But Jeff Sessions labels them all dangerous wanted criminals? That the Attorney General, the man most responsible for upholding justice in the nation should claim that sends chills down my spine.

But there are lots of responsible positions which would benefit from being held by an honest office-holder, and I hope James Schwab is soon back in such a position.
+6 # relegn 2018-03-14 06:24
Some folks just can't take the constant flood of lies they are told to repeat to the American people. Does anyone, other than those who have drank the Kool-Aid, believe any statements issued by anyone in this administration?
+4 # elizabethblock 2018-03-14 10:18
Read up on how the Danes got almost all their Jews to safety when the Nazis were preparing to arrest them.

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