CASE STUDY ICE
On a Saturday in February 2018, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced at a press conference that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be performing raids around the Bay Area the following day. At the time of her announcement, Schaaf said, “I am sharing this information publicly not to panic our residents but to protect them….My priority is for the wellbeing and safety of all residents—particularly our most vulnerable.” The raids resulted in the detainment of 232 suspected undocumented immigrants, half of whom had criminal convictions.
ICE officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the U.S. Justice Department, and the White House all criticized Schaaf for her decision to announce the raids. They argued that the warning caused an increased risk to ICE officers. Immigration organizations also criticized her decision by saying it could have set off a panic in the immigrant community and Oakland in general. Additionally, Noel Gallo, an Oakland City Councilman, said that annoying the feds isn’t in the city’s best interest. And Joe Tuman, a San Francisco State University professor, suggested that there may have been a quieter way to go about spreading this information to the local immigrant community rather than having a press conference.
One major point of criticism was that Schaaf was playing politics with this warning. Schaaf is a liberal mayor of a notoriously liberal and diverse city, and she has been very outspoken in her disdain for the Trump administration, even calling Trump the “Bully in Chief.” Schaaf also said the raids were both racist and politically motivated, and that the Trump administration is purposefully targeting California because it is liberal. Critics of her actions claim that her announcement was pandering to her base while jeopardizing the lives of law enforcement officials.
According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ Government Ethics Director Hana Callaghan, sanctuary city status means that the municipality has determined it will not use city resources to assist the federal government in its immigration enforcement policies unless presented with a lawful court order; being a sanctuary city does not mean government officials can hinder lawful processes.
Creating Community: Did Schaaf use the Oakland community’s shared values as the cornerstone of her decision making? Did her decision align with the Oakland City Council’s mission and goals? Was she mindful of the various and conflicting stakeholders in the situation? Did her decision promote relationships within the Oakland community? Did it encourage a sense of connectedness and shared values?
Encouraging Ethical Conduct: Did Schaaf openly acknowledge that her decision was based in ethics and morality? Did her decision promote awareness of an ethical issue? Did it create a positive or negative difference in the community? Did it make a positive or negative difference for her staff and for other offices in the local government?
Showing Discipline in One’s Role: According to the Oakland City Charter, the Mayor’s functions and duties include providing “community leadership” and “taking issues to the people and marshalling public interest in and support for municipal activity.” Did her decision fulfill these two duties? Since Schaaf is a government figure, she has certain fiduciary obligations to her constituents; did this decision put the public’s interest before her own personal and political interests? Was she mindful of the conflicting role she has as both an elected official and a politician? By doing this at a press conference, was she putting her political ambitions ahead of her constituents’ interests and her duties as mayor?
Clarifying Culture: When Schaaf was criticized for her decision, did she clarify her values, Oakland’s values, and the Trump administration’s? Did her announcement uphold the mission of city government and the mayor’s office? Is she identifying gaps between stated and actual values?
Designing Ethical Systems: Did Schaaf’s actions have impact beyond the city of Oakland? Did her decision incite change at the national level? Did the decision create a conversation about immigration policy at a state and national level? Is it possible that by mis-relying upon sanctuary city status, she put the whole legal construct of sanctuary cities at risk? Is she putting federal funding for infrastructure, schools, and law enforcement at risk?
CASE STUDY ICE