Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Mayor’s tip to illegal immigrants ires Justice Department

Effective Compassion | Attorney General Jeff Sessions says Oakland, Calif., is harboring criminals
by Rob Holmes
Posted 3/07/18, 02:22 pm

In a speech Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif., Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for tipping off illegal immigrants late last month about upcoming raids.

“So here’s my message for Mayor Schaaf: How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda,” Sessions said at a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association. The Justice Department also announced Wednesday a lawsuit against California to overturn three laws that protect illegal immigrants from deportation.

Schaaf defended her warning, which came in the form of a tweet on Feb. 24, as a “moral obligation” to warn people of the possible threat of law enforcement, in keeping with Oakland’s stance as a sanctuary city.

But a statement days later by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director Thomas Homan noted the mayor’s “reckless decision” helped shield at least 864 criminals known to be in the Bay Area and enabled them to elude capture “at the expense of public safety.”

He likened Schaaf’s alert to being “no better than a gang lookout yelling, ‘police!’ when a police cruiser comes into a neighborhood.”

Schaaf said she wanted to protect the “most vulnerable” and to prepare residents with her information. Besides providing a link to a legal services and representation website, she reminded people that Oakland police officers and public school officials could not participate in ICE raids. Illegal workers received her further assurance: “California state law prohibits business owners from assisting ICE agents in immigration enforcement and bars federal agents from accessing employee-only areas.”

Even so, ICE agents announced making 150 arrests in the days after the public tip-off.

“About half of the individuals arrested also have criminal convictions in addition to their immigration violations, including … assault/battery, crimes against children, weapons charges, and DUI,” according to an ICE statement.

Statistics for California as a whole show ICE arrested over 20,000 illegal immigrants in 2017, of which 81 percent had other criminal convictions.

In asserting her right to help her city “of law-abiding immigrants,” Schaaf told USA Today, “We believe our community is safer when families stay together.” But she ignored those who were not living under the law and instead focused attention on a person’s origin: “Our values are to protect all of our residents regardless of where we come from,” she told KTVU in January, calling the president the “bully in chief” and accusing him of intimidation of “vulnerable residents.”

President Barack Obama prioritized deporting illegal immigrants who were convicted of crimes and categorized as a “serious” threat. In 2015, he directed ICE to release over 90,000 illegal immigrants deemed to be simply “criminal” threats, according to NumbersUSA. The Obama administration in 2014 suspended ICE’s Secure Communities program, under which individuals faced removal from the U.S. first and foremost because of criminal violations rather than their immigration status.

The Trump administration revived the Secure Communities program upon his inauguration, and 2017 figures showed 363,400 criminal illegal immigrants deported. Trump has asked local law enforcement to cooperate with federal ICE agents whenever they plan to release illegal immigrants to prevent those with criminal records from committing further crimes, but sanctuary cities like Oakland refuse to participate. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government may not force the states to enforce federal law—especially at their own expense.

Psalm 82’s opening question is relevant for Schaaf and others caught up in the sanctuary movement’s assumption that even criminal immigrants are somehow victims: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”

Creative Commons/Photo by Ian Muttoo Creative Commons/Photo by Ian Muttoo A McDonald’s in Toronto

Ronald McDonald, poverty fighter?

With competitive prices, 24-hour locations, and “nutritious” food, the golden arches might be the biggest unnoticed poverty fighter in town, one Canadian writer said.

Analyzing its effect in Canada in the Financial Post, Matthew Lau lauded McDonald’s for providing social interaction, temporary shelter, bathrooms, and warmth—often in safer conditions than true homeless shelters. (In 2015 the BBC reported on Hong Kong’s “McRefugees,” who sleep at tables, turning the restaurants into hostels for the night.)

Lau said McDonald’s serves some of the best cheap food available. A Big Mac provides 25 grams of protein in 540 calories, a quarter of adult daily food need. But many would take issue with Lau, classifying fast food outlets like McDonalds as major contributors to bad health and poor eating habits that go hand-in-hand with poverty.

Aside from a relatively clean, safe environment, the burger giant, worth over $106 billion in 2017, provides nationwide something even better for fighting poverty: employment.

A 2016 report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that those in the food industry are 50 percent more likely to qualify for food stamps due to low or non-living wage, but McDonald’s provides that first job which is so crucial for many young workers. At least one in eight U.S. workers has been employed there. “When it comes to getting [people] on the first rung of the economic ladder, McDonald’s has outdone every anti-poverty organization in the country,” Lau said.

It might not be a poverty-fighting machine, but education options, tuition assistance, and English as a second language programs for employees give some workers hope of mobility. Ann Bissett-Strahl, commenting on Lau’s article, said her high school job at McDonald’s taught her “everything about how to run a business,” and gave “a taste of humility mopping floors and cleaning,” too. —R.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Jae C. Hong Associated Press/Photo by Jae C. Hong The homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River in December 2017

Homeless camp cleared near Disneyland

The dismantling of an encampment near Disneyland uncovered the sad detritus of homeless life: 5,000 needles, 1,000 pounds of human excrement, and 250 tons of trash. About 1,000 people had squatted along a 3-mile stretch of biking and hiking trails beside the Santa Ana River in Orange County, Calif., for over two years.

Last month officials closed the camp and moved 719 residents into hotels and shelters, but only after a fight.

As the city began using an anti-camping ordinance to sweep out the homeless in January, Newsweek reported, the Orange County Catholic Worker organization, along with seven camp residents, fought back with a lawsuit. They claimed they were being criminalized for “the mere act of existing in public spaces” and balked at being herded out with no help to find another place to go. The parties reached an agreement whereby the county would provide each person a place to live, either in a shelter or in a hotel with a voucher for a one-month stay. Long-term, the situation is not resolved.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter toured the camp before allowing the city to close it. He told Los Alamitos Patch that clearing the camp was preferred to an endless cycle of homeless people getting arrested for trespassing, going to jail, and then heading back to life along the river. —R.H.

Ride-hailing for the ailing

Over 7 million people miss medical visits each year because they don’t have a ride to the doctor. But Lyft and Uber are racing to the rescue.

Both ride-hailing companies are expanding their reach to serve more elderly and needy clients traveling to and from their health appointments in cities and rural areas. Riders don’t have to use a smartphone or app to get picked up. And the insurance company or health provider gets the bill, which is cheaper than a taxi.

But a ride is only one part of the problem. A University of Pennsylvania study tracked offers of Lyft rides to about 300 Medicaid patients needing to get to two Philadelphia doctors’ offices. Surprisingly, most people refused the offer, and there was no decrease in no-shows. Lead researcher Krisda Chaiyachati said the results may stem from the offers being given by phone or preferences for more familiar forms of transportation such as the bus. He suggested a range of solutions for connecting people to practitioners, including more telemedicine and old-fashioned home visits. —R.H.

Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 03/10/2018 02:39 am

    About ride-hailing, I wonder how many of the refusals were because of nervousness about getting in a car with a stranger. Especially if they're not familiar with how the system works.