Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made national headlines last week after warning her constituents, via Twitter, about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids taking place in the city. Since the 2018 elections are on the horizon, this all may seem like a scheme to gain votes. In reality, however, Schaaf is just trying to protect innocent, undocumented immigrants from being confused with criminals with serious offenses who are being targeted.
For the most part, Schaaf’s decision has been met with criticism from people on both sides of the political spectrum. On one hand, Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, believes that Schaaf’s decision allowed over 800 criminals to escape, which therefore compromises the safety of the city. On the other hand, City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the predominantly Hispanic Fruitvale District, said,“Annoying the feds isn’t in the city’s best interest” and that there are times in which his area has needed FBI and other federal help since gang MS-13 “operates” there, meaning that ICE operations should not be vilified since they can actually be beneficial to the region.
Before Schaaf’s tenure (which began in January 2015), Oakland was already a city with very few things to celebrate. High levels of poverty compared to the national average and a rising cost for housing had been looming over the city. Schaaf ran for mayor with the promise that she would help reduce crime rates and unemployment in the city, and that is what she is doing now.
To bring Schaaf’s work into perspective, let’s analyze some data: From 2015 to 2017, Oakland’s Violent Crime Index has gone down from 6,212 crimes to 5,685. Aside from crime, another issue which troubled the city was the percent of the population that was unemployed and homeless. Under Schaaf, unemployment has dropped from 6.6 percent to 3.7 percent in just two years. Therefore, in terms of meeting expectations, Schaaf has not fallen short, which means that she would not be doing this to rescue her term as mayor.
Yet, coming from a county that voted 78.1 percent Democratic in the 2016 elections and is ardently liberal, it seems as if Schaaf’s actions are all a plan to gain more votes when she faces reelection in November this year.
Regardless of whether it is a scheme or not, Schaaf’s decision to disperse this information will have consequences. The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday, March 6 that it would be suing the state of California over its laws meant to protect undocumented immigrants, which many claim are a protection for criminals. Schaaf responded to this through a tweet on Wednesday, March 7 by claiming to be protecting families and workers that harvest crops.
Whichever way it may be seen, one thing is certain: Schaaf’s warning simply informed Oakland residents about something they are entitled to know about. Schaaf’s warning did not include information that specifically stated where ICE would be operating, therefore anyone was susceptible to encounter ICE agents. If the real target is criminals, those criminals have charges and they can be traced. The raids are nothing more than attempts from ICE to capture anyone who is undocumented. Also, undocumented people aren’t only gang members, they are heads of families, field workers and even students in medical school.
In Spanish, ICE raids are known as “Redadas,” which derives from the word “red,” meaning net. Just like a fisherman’s net may pick up unwanted catch, so do ICE raids. What Libby Schaaf did was simply an attempt to prevent innocent and honest people from getting caught in that net.