Illustration by Anya Chytrowski
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf informed the public of imminent sweeps by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers shortly before officers arrested over 150 undocumented immigrants in Northern California on February 27. According to ICE, about half of those arrested possessed criminal convictions.
“Our government is here to protect people, and when ICE agents come and take away productive, friendly residents, they are undermining the value of their own roles, and leave us questioning why we pay taxes in the first place,” said Berkeley High School (BHS) freshman Canaan Pakter. “Libby Schaaf may be rightfully subject to due process under the law, but this only means we need to get out there and stop electing people who make laws like these … [Schaaf’s] job is to protect and serve the people of Oakland, and she did just that.”
In a statement, ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan condemned Schaaf for inhibiting the efforts of ICE officials. “Thanks to the dedicated and professional work of ICE deportation officers, we were able to remove many public safety threats from the streets of the Bay Area during the past few days,” he said. Homan said he was concerned that “criminal aliens” were able to escape deportation because of Schaaf’s actions.
BHS Junior and Liberty Club Public Relations Representative Ava Remler said she was shocked that Schaaf would hinder the ability of ICE to conduct deportations. “Enforcing the law is the only purpose of having laws in the first place,” said Remler. Remler said it was important to follow the law above one’s own personal beliefs.
“We can’t just ignore federal law because we don’t like it,” Remler said. She said if a red state were to disregard gun control laws or the minimum wage, she would be furious.
BHS senior Sean Hoffman said he generally agreed with following federal law above state and local policies, but, in this case, while he understood the rationale of arresting criminals, he didn’t see the point in arresting good people. Hoffman also stated that Schaaf, rather than simply advising residents to evacuate, primarily informed people of their rights in the event that they should encounter ICE agents.
Oakland Unified School District Board of Education Student Director and local activist Gema Quetzal was at an emergency rally in San Francisco on February 28. She said people were preparing for ICE raids for weeks and they happened to land on February 28.
Local Xicana activist Reyna Jauregui was also at the emergency rally in San Francisco. “This isn’t just something that personally affects my life; it affects so many people around me. From students being scared to go to school, to changing their day structure to make sure they can stay safe … Trying to better your life for your family isn’t a crime. Bettering your life is a right. I’ll continue to fight for my people [and] everyone else should too,” Jauregui said.
Whisper Torres, another local Xicana activist who was at the emergency rally in San Francisco on February 28, said, “These raids are a violation of our human rights … The current ICE raids are government tactics used to keep immigrants and immigrant communities down, to deprive us of our freedom … We will protect all members of our community, especially our undocumented members during this time.”