James Schwab, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson, has spoken out for the first time since resigning in March. In an interview with CBS This Morning on Thursday, Schwab said he was “instructed by superiors in Washington ... [to] flat-out lie.”
Schwab resigned from his position at ICE in March after deportation officers swept through Northern California in a four-day hunt for unauthorized immigrants, arresting 232 people. The agency claimed that 864 unauthorized immigrants escaped, and that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who issued a warning the night before the sweep, was to blame.
Schwab initially told the San Fransisco Chronicle he quit because he “didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts.” But he took it a step further on Wednesday, telling CBS’s Jamie Yuccas that he “could not fathom staying at an organization that was flat-out okay with lying to the American public.”
While Schwab acknowledged he was instructed to “spin” the truth under both the Obama and Trump administrations, he reached a tipping point when Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked him to blame Schaaf for allowing 800 “unwanted aliens” to escape. Schwab claims that figure is much lower.
Agents from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office showed up at the door mid-interview to question Schwab further. Deterred by Yuccas and the cameras, the two men left.
“This is why people won’t come out and speak against the government. To actually prepare and stand out in front of the public and perpetuate something that you know is absolutely false is not okay,” Schwab said, commenting on the unexpected visit. “And no special agent from Department of Homeland Security is going to stop me from saying that.”
ICE is under increasing scrutiny as Trump ramps up his “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Some theorize that ICE has “too much power” and views itself as an agency that is above the law. Many Democrats, like congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are now calling for the government to abolish ICE altogether.