The war of words between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director Thomas Homan over Schaaf ‘s warning that ICE was about to raid Northern California counties looking for illegal residents could bleed into another major issue rising in California this election year—crime.
Schaaf said she issued her warning because she wanted residents to know their rights and wanted to keep families together. Homan said ICE was looking for criminal illegal aliens through these raids because lack of cooperation from sanctuary cities would not permit cooperation to nab criminal illegal aliens in jails.
Questions arise that deal with the issue of crime and criminals—a concern increasing in California that goes beyond the immigration debate and involves laws passed by voters to open the jails for some prisoners.
When Schaaf and her allies speak of keeping families together does that sentiment apply to a member of the family who is a serious felon? And when Homan announces that criminals are still on the loose, blaming Schaaf’s warning announcement as a reason, is his use of the term criminal all inclusive? Are these people who violated immigration laws, or avoided paying a traffic ticket fine, or are they felons, convicted of more serious crimes like rape or assault? Certainly, some fall into the latter category raising safety concerns.
The answer to these questions on the type of crimes and status of criminals will play an added role in the broader developing debate on whether California has become too soft on crime.
Already there is pushback from police and public safety authorities on the negative effects of ballot propositions 47 and 57. Prop 47 (passed in 2014) was sold as a measure to convert some felonies to misdemeanors and to reduce the need to send arrestees to jail. However, law enforcement officials and others have blamed Proposition 47 for allowing repeat offenders to continue breaking the law with little consequence. Prop 57 (passed in 2016) increased parole opportunities for non-violent crimes.
Recently, a judge ruled that post-Proposition 57 regulations to cover sex offenders were invalid meaning sex offenders could take advantage of the parole opportunities if they had been convicted for other crimes and already served their time for the sex crime. The judge’s ruling put Gov. Jerry Brown, an advocate of Proposition 57, on the defensive and allowed opponents of the measure to cry, “I told you so.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of police officers and prosecutors are talking up an initiative to change aspects of Proposition 47 and add 15 crimes to the list of violent crimes for which early release will not be an option.
Into this brew of pushback on crime concerns comes the immigration debate, ICE raids and a mayor’s warning.
Citizen safety has been put in greater jeopardy because of serious criminals avoiding the raids because of the mayor’s warning. But, do the raids, as immigrant supporters attest, make immigrants fearful of reporting serious crimes to the police for fear of deportation?
While California’s assessment of immigration status is in contrast to the federal administration’s view, the crime element portion of the story becomes part of the larger crime discussion that is brewing in California.