The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Oakland mayor who tipped off immigrants to ICE raid draws Justice Department scrutiny

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf answers questions during a news conference at City Hall in Oakland, Calif., in June 2016. (Eric Risberg/AP)

The Justice Department is reviewing the actions of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf after she publicly tipped off the immigrant community about an ICE enforcement operation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

Schaaf warned the community of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation Saturday, less than 24 hours before ICE began arresting dozens of suspected undocumented immigrants across Northern California. ICE netted a total of 232 suspected undocumented immigrants, 115 of whom had prior felonies or “significant or multiple misdemeanors” on their records. But Thomas D. Homan, ICE deputy director, said that possibly hundreds more “illegal aliens … were able to elude us, thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision.”

Critics have said that Schaaf’s decision to warn immigrants of the raid amounted to obstruction of justice, something she has adamantly denied. Schaaf has defended her actions as legal by saying she did not obtain the information through official government channels — but through “multiple credible sources” — and because she did not reveal specific details about the operation.

On Thursday, Sanders said she believed Schaaf endangered ICE agents by tipping off the community, a belief shared by Homan.

“I think it’s outrageous that a mayor would circumvent federal authorities and certainly put them in danger by making a move such as that,” Sanders said. “And that’s currently under review by the Department of Justice.”

Schaaf has only doubled down in the days since she issued the warning, telling The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that, in issuing the warning, she intended to protect the law-abiding immigrant families who may be at risk of being separated should a mother or father be arrested by ICE.

Homan, however, has said that she was protecting criminals. “What she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling ‘police’ when a police cruiser comes in the neighborhood, except she did it to a whole community,” he said on Fox & Friends this week. “It’s beyond the pale.”

In a news conference Wednesday, reporters asked Schaaf to respond to allegations that she had been protecting criminals rather than law-abiding families. As she had said to The Post on Tuesday, Schaaf said she was thinking of Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, a 46-year-old mother of four and nurse at a public hospital, when she made her decision to warn the community. Mendoza-Sanchez and her husband were deported to Mexico in August despite having clean criminal records.

Mendoza-Sanchez’s daughter “stood in a high school gym and wept and asked me why did the government take her parents away from her, and how was she going to support her younger American-born siblings at just 23 years old?” Schaaf said.

Schaaf continued: “I hope we take this moment to recognize that we have to fight against the racist myth that the Trump administration is trying to perpetuate, that immigrants are dangerous criminals. There is nothing farther from the truth. This is racist, and it is false. Ample evidence shows that American-born citizens are actually more likely to commit crimes than immigrants. We have a criminal justice system. We should let that work. We should not conflate it with our broken immigration system.”

On Tuesday, Schaaf told The Post she considered herself part of “the resistance,” the unofficial term for left-leaning Americans who oppose Trump.

Sanders did not provide any additional information Thursday about the scope of the Justice Department’s review of Schaaf’s actions.

More from Morning Mix:

After furniture fuss, Ben Carson wants to cancel order for $31,000 dining set

NRA boycott: REI, Mountain Equipment Co-Op stop selling major outdoor brand with NRA ties

Weinstein Co. reaches deal to sell assets to former Obama administration official