A spokesperson for the San Francisco office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepped down this week because, he said, he could no longer “bear the burden” of lying for the Trump administration.
The former spokesperson, James Schwab, resigned after several public officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stated that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s warning over a federal immigration raid helped “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats” avoid arrest. Sessions made the comments in Sacramento last week after the Justice Department sued the state of California over three sanctuary laws enacted in response to the Trump administration’s escalation in enforcement.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. He said that he asked the agency to correct the information, but was asked “to deflect” instead. “I didn’t agree with that,” he said.
Schwab said the statements about immigrants evading arrest, which were widely quoted in an array of media outlets, were misleading “because we were not ever going to be able to capture 100 percent of the target list” of roughly 1,000 undocumented immigrants in Northern California.
“I didn’t feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against (Schaaf’s) actions was the way to go about it,” he said. “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.”
According to Schwab, this was the first instance in his 16 year-career in government that he was told to ignore a falsehood. “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,” he told CNN in another interview.
Schwab’s “burden” as an ICE spokesperson wasn’t exactly new—the entire premise of the agency, conceived in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is that immigration is—and immigrants are—a threat and matter of national security. This is the founding lie of ICE, and it has anchored the Department of Homeland Security’s original vision for the agency, which has been to reach “a 100 [percent] rate of removal for all removable aliens...to keep America secure.”
But better to develop a conscience late than never at all, I guess.