ICE spokesperson resigns after refusing to perpetuate Trump administration’s fake news

"I’ve never been in a situation when I’ve been asked to ignore the facts because it was more convenient.”

Deportation officers arrest undocumented immigrants during targeted enforcement operation in February 2018. (CREIDT: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
Deportation officers arrest undocumented immigrants during targeted enforcement operation in February 2018. (CREIDT: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

James Schwab, the San Francisco spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),  resigned last week over what he claims are false characterizations of immigrants being spread by the Trump administration, according to San Francisco Chronicle reporter Hamed Aleaziz, who first broke the story.

Schwab told the Chronicle that the ICE agency instructed him to deflect questions after a four-day immigration enforcement operation took place in Northern California recently. He cited ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as part of the reason for his resignation. Last week, both Homan and Sessions heavily criticized Oakland Mayor Libby Scaaf for warning the public about immigration raids “as soon as within the next 24 hours.” Trump administration officials have since claimed that her warning led to “864 criminal aliens” remaining “at large in the community.”

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Schwab said the number of individuals was likely far lower and he didn’t want to “perpetuate misleading facts,” according to the publication. The agency, in turn, asked him to deflect questions.

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told the Chronicle. “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.”

“I didn’t feel like fabricating the truth to defend ourselves against (Schaaf’s) actions was the way to go about it,” he continued. “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 ICE agency confirmed Schwab’s departure to the Chronicle, but did not provide a reason for his resignation citing confidential matters.

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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 dangerous situations, all because of one mayor’s irresponsible action.”

Schwab was hired by the ICE agency in 2015, but has long worked for the federal government according to his LinkedIn profile.

Schaaf commended Schwab’s resignation Monday, telling the Washington Post, “I commend Mr. 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.”

“It’s the job of a public affairs officer to offer transparency for the agency you work for,” Schwab told the Chronicle. “I felt like we weren’t doing that. I’ve never been in a situation when I’ve been asked to ignore the facts because it was more convenient.”

Schwab joins other notable federal government workers who publicly resigned over disagreements with the Trump administration on immigration. Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts wrote a piece in mid-February detailing his difficult decision to resign as legal secretary for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry because he didn’t want to help process documents that could help ICE track down and deport undocumented immigrants. Elaine Duke, the acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary, resigned in February after reportedly clashing with the Trump administration over ending legal protections for 57,000 Hondurans who had lived in the country for about two decades.