SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal official said Wednesday that about 800 “criminals” avoided immigration arrests because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted the public to the surprise operation, an extraordinarily high number of missed targets.
Thomas Homan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director, told Fox News that the mayor’s warning on Twitter was “beyond the pale” and compared her to a gang lookout who tells people when a police car is arriving. Homan said the Justice Department is looking into whether Schaaf obstructed justice.
The mayor’s unusual public warning last weekend came hours before the agency launched an operation in Northern California that resulted in more than 150 arrests as of Tuesday, according to the agency.
The agency declined to elaborate on the 800 who allegedly got away or answer other questions about the operation that began Sunday. Danielle Bennett, an agency spokeswoman, said more information would be released later in the week.
John Torres, the agency’s director during the end of George W. Bush’s administration and beginning of Barack Obama’s, said agents generally capture about 40 percent of people they target in such sweeps.
Targets often elude authorities because agents don’t have search warrants and advocacy groups have waged public awareness campaigns urging people not to open their doors. Other times, agents have outdated addresses or targets are not home.
It was unclear how many people would have eluded capture without the mayor’s warning but Homan squarely blamed her for 800 and said her actions jeopardized officer safety.
“There’s over 800 significant public safety threat criminals, these are people who are here illegally and committed yet another crime, been convicted of a crime,” he told Fox. “She gave them warning, and there’s 800 that we were unable to locate because of that warning, so that community’s a lot less safe than it would have been.”
Homan’s statement of 800 missed targets — plus the 150 arrests — in only three days suggests an unusually large operation by the agency’s standards. Two weeks ago, it arrested 212 in a five-day operation in the Los Angeles area. A Texas operation in February resulted in 145 arrests over seven days.
By Olga R. Rodriguez for YAHOO FINANCE
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