James Schwab said he "quit because I didn't want to perpetuate misleading facts" after government officials continued to insist that as many as 800 undocumented immigrants had escaped arrest because a California mayor warned the public about plans for targeted ICE raids even though he told them the number was inaccurate.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan lashed out at Democrat lawmakers on Monday after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, accused the agency of using its powers to "terrorize innocent families".
"Efforts by local politicians have shielded removable criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and created another magnet for more illegal immigration, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people it purports to protect", the agency said in a statement.
Last week, Sessions called out Schaaf, saying, "Those are 800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community - 800 wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more unsafe situations, all because of one mayor's irresponsible action".
"I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn't agree with that", he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
ICE said while they disagreed with Schwab's take on the issue, they wished him well. "To say that 100 percent are unsafe criminals on the street, or that those people weren't picked up because of the misguided actions of the mayor, is just wrong", Schwab said.
Enraged at her defiance, multiple top Trump administration officials publicly vilified Schaaf, accusing her of jeopardizing ICE officers' safety and preventing hundreds of arrests.More news: China plans new competition regulator in government revamp
Schwab, however, told the Chronicle that those statements were falsehoods, and led to his resignation.
Schaaf's warning on February 24, an attempt to protect undocumented immigrants who did not have criminal charges against them and would be separated from their families if detained, ruined the operation that would have arrested potentially hundreds of "criminal aliens", according to statements from ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan, Sessions, and Trump.
As he told the Chronicle, "I didn't feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against her actions was the way to go about it".
Sessions, speaking in Sacramento on Wednesday, said he had learned from Homan that "ICE failed to make 800 arrests that they would have made if the mayor had not acted as she did".
Schaaf said it was her "duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent", adding that she believed numerous immigrants ICE was targeting were law-abiding. Schwab told CNN he'd "never" been in a situation "where someone asked me to deflect when we absolutely knew something was awry". According to the Washington Post, Schwab was previously a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Reserve Element, a public affairs office for the NASA Ames Research Center, and a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Defense, before joining ICE in 2015. She's protecting us. And she's doing what really should be the bare minimum for an elected official.
California past year passed three sanctuary laws that severely limit local law enforcement's ability to communicate with federal authorities and hold illegal immigrants so ICE can pick them up and potentially proceed with deportation.
The president will visit California on Tuesday for the first time as president to inspect prototypes for his proposed border wall along the southern border.