A spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned, saying he could no longer “bear the burden” of spreading falsehoods on behalf of the Trump administration.
The spokesman, James Schwab, who had worked for the agency’s San Francisco division, told news outlets Monday that his decision was prompted by false statements made by the agency Feb. 27 and repeated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week.
The statements criticized the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, for her decision last month to warn city residents that a raid by federal immigration agents targeting roughly 1,000 people was imminent. The agency’s deputy director, Thomas D. Homan, said Schaaf’s warning had helped “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats” to evade capture in the raid.
Sessions, in a visit to California last week, condemned Schaaf, a Democrat, and echoed the agency, asserting that her actions had allowed hundreds to escape.
Schwab said in interviews with the San Francisco Chronicle and CNN that he had been frustrated by the remarks and had quit “because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts.”
“I asked them to change the information,” he told the Chronicle, referring to the 864 people to whom the statement alluded. “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.”
He explained that the enforcement agency would have been unlikely to capture all of the roughly 1,000 immigrants living in the area illegally that it had targeted and that it was incorrect to identify those who were not detained as threats to public safety.
“We were never going to pick up that many people,” he said. “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.”
Schwab did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. He resigned last week, according to 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,” he told CNN, adding that in his 16 years of experience in government he had never been asked to deflect when he knew something was inaccurate.
In a statement, Schaaf, whom President Trump criticized last week for alerting residents to the raid, praised Schwab “for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie.”
“Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard,” she added.