- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top federal officials exaggerated the number of illegal immigrant criminals they had targeted for deportation in last month’s enforcement sweep in northern California, a former Homeland Security spokesman said in defending his decision to quit the department.

Both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Thomas Homan had said more than 800 illegal immigrants had managed to avoid capture after the Oakland mayor tipped the community off about ICE’s actions. Mr. Sessions said the 800 were criminals.

But James Schwab, an ICE spokesman who quit in the wake of the flap, told the San Francisco Chronicle those numbers were inaccurate and he lost a fight to tamp down on the wrong information.

“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,” he told the paper.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned her community last month after getting word of an ICE enforcement push in the bay area.

Mr. Homan said that warning undercut his officers and contributed to 864 “criminal aliens and public safety threats” eluding capture. Mr. Sessions echoed those comments as he announced a lawsuit against three California sanctuary city laws last week, asserting some 800 arrests “would have [been] made if the mayor had not acted as she did.”

Mr. Schwab, who joined ICE in 2015, told the Chronicle it was the first time he’d been asked to give out false information.

ICE spokesperson Liz Johnson, in a statement Tuesday, seemed to back off claims that the mayor’s warning led to all 800 escapes.

“Even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk and as Director Homan stated, while we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact,” Ms. Johnson said. “While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.”

Immigrant-rights activists called Mr. Schwab a “patriotic public servant” for blowing the whistle.

“We all know that Trump lies on a daily basis. Now Sessions and Homan are following suit,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “They are not interested in letting the facts get in the way of the anti-immigrant story they are trying to tell.”

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