U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents (Photo credit: Philip A. Dwyer/Bellingham Herald/MCT/Sipa USA)

ICE Defends Credibility, Warns Political Feud Is Hampering Operations

But Agency's Leader Is Still Picking Fight With Oakland's Mayor

Doug Sovern
March 21, 2018 - 10:33 pm

In a rare on-the-record interview, a top immigration enforcement official in San Francisco defended his agency's credibility and warned that ICE's escalating feud with the mayor of Oakland and other local leaders is hampering enforcement operations in the Bay Area.

Jerry Templet (pronounced TOM-play), the Deputy Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told KCBS Radio that the war of words between the Trump administration—including his boss, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan—and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is having unfortunate consequences on the streets of the Bay Area.

"It's a challenge for our agents," Templet said. As an example, he cited the arrest HSI made last Friday in Berkeley of an American citizen as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. "This was not related to immigration in any way," Templet told KCBS, although he would not disclose the nature of the crime involved, other than to say it was related to homeland security. HSI, the second-largest investigative branch of the federal government (only the FBI is bigger), enforces laws relating to national security, terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking and other transborder crimes, including immigration offenses. Friday's arrest triggered spontaneous protests at the scene by activists who turned out to "resist ICE,' Templet said. As word spread through Berkeley that some sort of ICE raid was underway, protesters turned out to "interfere," according to Templet. "That is extremely dangerous. For anyone to send a group of people out to try to impede those types of investigation is dangerous. It's a dangerous precedent. It puts our agents in danger, it puts the people who go out there in danger."

Templet is urging people in the Bay Area not to assume the worst when they see ICE agents, and to trust that they are there to protect the public safety. "We live in the Bay Area. I live in the Bay Area. The majority of our agents live in the Bay Area. We want our communities to be safe."

But Mayor Schaaf told KCBS Radio that if ICE has a public trust problem, it's the agency's own fault. "The fact that this administration continues to fearmonger and misstate facts is just palpable. It continues to perpetuate the racist lie" that undocumented immigrants are "violent criminals," in the words of President Trump, when Schaaf says studies show that they are less likely to commit crimes than American citizens are. "I think the biggest statement about the credibility of ICE comes from James Schwab's actions, resigning because he refused to continue to lie and deceive the American people." Schwab was the spokesperson for ICE in Northern California until he resigned last week because he said his agency was making false statements about how many immigrants escaped an ICE dragnet after Schaaf warned the public of impending raids.

Special Agent Templet wouldn't address Schwab directly, calling it a "personnel matter," but insisted his agency does not spread misinformation. "We hold what we say to be true. It does us no good to put out false information because it's easily proven" that it is false, Templet said. "As we move forward, and even in the past, we try to be as candid as possible, because anything else is just a waste of time."

But, as KCBS Radio reported Tuesday, Acting Director Homan continues to blame Mayor Schaaf and exaggerate the proven impact of her public warning. At a White House roundtable Tuesday, Homan and President Trump both blasted California's sanctuary jurisdictions, blaming their policies for allowing "murderers" to roam free, eluding ICE's grasp. Homan said that three of the "hundreds' of undocumented immigrants that agents failed to locate during their February sweep had committed additional crimes, including robbery, DUI and spousal assault. He implied that they got away and offended again because Schaaf tipped them off. It wasn't until KCBS Radio inquired after the event that ICE confirmed that the three were in fact arrested weeks ago, and none was from Oakland. They were arrested March 2 in Sacramento (just two days after the ICE raids ended), March 5 in Los Banos, and March 10 in Tulare County. ICE has presented no evidence that they ever lived in Oakland, committed crimes in Oakland, or were aware of the Mayor's statement before last month's enforcement operation began.

Mayor Schaaf said if ICE wants to improve its image in the Bay Area, Homan could start by coming clean with the American people. "This is deceptive, it is racist and Oakland does not want any part of that lie," she said.