Federal immigration agents are planning a large-scale crackdown on immigrants living and working in the Bay Area without proper documentation, the mayor of Oakland, Calif., warned local businesses and residents this weekend.
The action could come as early as this week, said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who said she had heard of the impending actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from multiple sources. Her decision to go public was extraordinary and controversial, drawing accusations of obstruction of justice and even treason, according to her office.
“Spreading rumors of ICE activities has been used as a tactic to strike fear and paralysis in the immigrant communities,” Schaaf, a Democrat, said at a press conference convened on Sunday. “This is something that I thought about very carefully before bringing this information forward. Due to the reliability of my sources and the fact that I received this from multiple sources, I felt it was my duty to share this information.”
Schaaf said in a press release that she was not told the exact locations likely to be targeted by the raids. The statement noted that employers are forbidden by California law from assisting ICE agents during workplace raids, and that the immigration officers are not permitted into certain employee-only areas.
ICE officials responded with bewilderment to Schaaf's warning of imminent raids, telling a local TV station that the agency looks for undocumented workers every day.
Some locals blasted the mayor for playing politics. Schaaf drew fire from local residents for ordering Oakland police officers to direct traffic during raids by ICE agents in Northern California early this month. That action found 77 restaurants and other businesses employing foreign-born workers who lacked acceptable documentation.
Schaaf’s perceived support of the action made her a target of fierce criticism. Her warning was viewed by those critics as a way of winning back support from the Latino community.
Schaaf is seeking re-election this year.