Numerous media outlets are pushing a story on Tuesday that the San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has resigned from his position because the Trump administration “made false public statements about a key aspect of the operation.”
If you went by the headlines, you’d imagine that former spokesman Jason Schwab was being asked to lie about the number of illegal migrants ICE identified as prioritized for removal in the Bay area, shortly before Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued her advance warning, on 24 February, that ICE would be out in force conducting a sweep starting the next day.
The opening sentences of the story are unenlightening:
James Schwab told The Chronicle on Monday that he was frustrated by repeated statements by officials, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that roughly 800 undocumented immigrants escaped arrest because of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Feb. 24 warning to the public about the four-day operation, issued the night before federal officers began staking out homes and knocking on doors.
Schwab wanted the agency to correct the number, which he understood to be far lower, and didn’t want to deflect media questions about it, he said.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” said Schwab, 38, who was hired in 2015 and resigned last week. “I asked them to change the information. 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.”
It sounds like Schwab had some concrete reason to “understand the number to be far lower,” doesn’t it? The implication that there was a reliable way to “correct” the number would suggest so.
It’s not until after the advertising break in the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Web version of the story that it becomes clear what Schwab actually meant.
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.”
The semantics of the claim is arguable (as I noted in this follow-up story). But they’re only arguable. They’re not “false.”
No one, including Schwab, knows how many illegals would have been picked up if they hadn’t been warned of the coming ICE operation by Mayor Schaaf.
In fact, he’s the one being sophomoric in this situation. He doesn’t dispute the actual ICE numbers. He just wants to use them differently for political purposes.
It is exactly true to say that when Schaaf issued her warning, it could have served as an alert to each and every one of the individuals on ICE’s list…