Following a controversial Aug. 16 raid of a West Oakland home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said repeatedly that the operation was part of a criminal human trafficking investigation. She also asserted that OPD did not violate Oakland’s sanctuary city policy by assisting ICE — by providing several patrol officers to block off the street during the raid — because it was a criminal, not civil immigration matter.
But according to evidence presented by Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission Chair Brian Hofer at the commission’s meeting last week, the raid hasn’t resulted in a single criminal prosecution. Rather, the only person arrested, Santos de Leon, is facing civil immigration charges and could be deported.
And while ICE maintains that there is an “ongoing” criminal investigation that could possibly result in charges being filed at a later date, agency officials have repeatedly declined requests for more information.
Immigration advocates are worried that the West Oakland raid could be an example of a new and troubling trend: ICE has recently begun to classify the act of providing shelter and other assistance to unaccompanied minors who recently immigrated to the United States as “human trafficking,” and is charging adults, often close family members, with the crime.
Hofer alleged that by providing assistance to ICE for the raid, OPD violated Oakland’s sanctuary city policies. He said Kirkpatrick made false statements on several occasions — including in emails to city councilmembers, statements at a town hall meeting, and through several OPD press releases — about the raid.
“The chief repeatedly supplied false information,” said Hofer at last week’s meeting. He pointed to several statements made by OPD and the chief about the raid that he said he could find no evidence to support.
The statements included a social media posting from OPD asserting that the arrest was related to “sex trafficking,” a later in-person statement by the chief that the man who was arrested had been charged with a crime and that no one is being deported. The chief also said publicly that victims were rescued by ICE and received services.
But there is no evidence to back up those statements.
At a community meeting in North Oakland last week, Kirkpatrick declined to answer questions from the Express about Hofer’s allegations or what sort of information ICE provided to OPD before officers assisted in the raid. Kirkpatrick also declined a request from the privacy commission to attend its meeting and answer questions about the raid, Hofer said.
Laura Polstein, an attorney with Centro Legal de la Raza, told members of the privacy commission that her organization’s staff members responded to the raid and documented what happened. “The arrest was a civil immigration violation only,” she said. “I personally met with the individual who was arrested and confirmed that.”
The recent Oakland raid occurred early in the morning of Aug. 16 when about 25 ICE agents who work for the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit served a warrant at a home on the 700 block of 27th Street. At least two Oakland police officers assisted in the operation by blocking vehicle traffic on 27th Street. ICE agents arrested one person, de Leon, and took another person, a younger relative of de Leon, from the house.
According to sources close to the family, the younger relative was taken by law enforcement to the Alameda County Family Justice Center, provided with unspecified “services,” and then released.
Concerned neighbors documented the event, as did independent journalist David Morse, who writes under the byline Dave Id. Their questions prompted OPD to release a statement on social media at 12:01 p.m. on Aug. 16, stating that ICE was serving a “federal criminal search warrant in connection with human sex trafficking of juveniles in our city.”
OPD’s statement drew TV news crews to the home while ICE agents were still on the scene, and multiple media outlets reported that the individual being arrested was part of a “sex trafficking” investigation “involving minors.”
A few hours after issuing its social media post, OPD deleted it and issued a second statement without alleging sex trafficking.
Hofer called OPD’s initial statement about sex trafficking of juveniles a “really salacious allegation” that has damaged the reputations of everyone present that day.
Later, during a Sept. 6 town hall meeting hosted by Councilmember Abel Guillen, Kirkpatrick was questioned by members of the public about whether OPD’s assistance during the raid violated Oakland’s sanctuary city policy, which bars the city from helping to enforce federal civil immigration law.
“The federal partners do not have to tell us when they’re coming into our jurisdiction. It’s a courtesy,” Kirkpatrick responded. “But they said they were coming to Oakland to execute an arrest warrant pertaining to probable cause for human trafficking.”
She explained that based on this notification, she chose to provide OPD officers to block off the streets to help ICE conduct the search and arrest. She then said that “only one person has been charged with a crime, and there is not a deportation matter in this case.”
But Kirkpatrick’s statement is contradicted by ICE documents obtained by the privacy commission. ICE officials filed an I-213, the form that initiates a civil deportation case, against de Leon on Aug. 16 — the day they arrested him. The form also contains contradictory and apparently erroneous information. For example, it states that de Leon was arrested on Aug. 10 — six days before the raid — for the crime of “human slavery or trafficking” — however, there is no record of his arrest by any Bay Area police agency or ICE on that date.
The ICE agent who prepared the I-213 also wrote that there is “no evidence yet that [de Leon] was a perpetrator, conspirator or accomplice to the alleged crimes described on the search warrant / complaint.”
In other words, de Leon was arrested purely on grounds that he is undocumented and now faces deportation.
Members of the privacy commission asked last week what sort of “due diligence” Kirkpatrick had conducted before providing ICE with assistance. Oakland police Capt. Bobby Hookfin told the commissioners that only the chief had that information, and he was unaware if ICE ever supplied a warrant or other documents that would have spelled out criminal allegations in detail.
Some immigration rights activists are worried that ICE has recently re-defined the crime of human trafficking to include assistance, like housing and employment, that adults provide to juveniles who come to the United States without their parents. In many cases, the adults being investigated and charged are close relatives of the minors who are supposedly being trafficked.
It’s unclear if that’s what happened in this case, but on Aug. 10, more than 100 legal assistance and immigrants rights’ organizations sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke calling for an end to the “surge initiative” under the Trump administration that has resulted in the targeting of families harboring immigrant youth.
“This initiative — like other actions recently reported targeting families and youth — will further devastate communities across the United States, where fear of immigration enforcement has already reduced engagement with local police and the reporting of crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault,” the letter stated.
Others worry that the recent Oakland raid has further blurred the line between criminal and civil enforcement actions by federal immigration agents. The conflation of ICE’s enforcement actions has also drawn criticism across California, and is the reason why cities like Oakland and Santa Cruz have decided to end cooperation between their police departments and the federal agency. In February, then-Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel accused ICE of using gang raids as cover to enlist Santa Cruz police officers in immigration enforcement and said his agency would no longer collaborate with ICE. “We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust,” Vogel said at the time.
Hofer said there were enough inaccuracies between the available facts and what Kirkpatrick has asserted that he is considering filing an internal affairs complaint against the chief for untruthfulness.