Community activists unleashed their fury on agents with Homeland Security Investigations — part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — who, police said, served a federal search warrant related to human trafficking in West Oakland on Wednesday morning.
The operation began around 6:30 a.m. on 27th Street, near West Street. Law enforcement officers were at the scene for hours.
"HSI is conducting a criminal investigation, not a civil immigration or deportation action," Oakland police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said in a statement.
Although ICE officials remained tight-lipped, Oakland police said they were looking for suspects in an alleged human trafficking ring that is targeting juveniles.
However, Laura Barrios, whose house was raided, claims investigators are looking into their family-owned janitorial business, and at least two undocumented family members from Guatemala were taken into custody.
A tense situation unfolded as agents, who filed out of a house with boxes of evidence, were confronted by an angry crowd. People yelled "Boo" and chanted "Shame."
Lucas Solorzano, with the Alameda County Immigration Legal and Education Partnership, said it's up to communities to protect their own. ICE agents are not welcome, he said.
"This is the political climate we're in right now," he said. "It shows how important community defense models are right now, how we need to be able to defend community members."
Near the house where the federal search warrant was served, messages scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk offered insight into the neighborhood's views on the city's police department and ICE.
"We (love) our neighbors," "Get ICE out," Don't talk to cops" and "OPD is a disgrace" warred with "Oakland is not a sanctuary."
In fact, Oakland is a sanctuary city, but police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick authorized officers to provide traffic control after HSI on Tuesday requested their assistance.
"Chief Kirkpatrick gave strict instructions to the commander and officers that they may not assist HSI with any enforcement efforts," Watson said. "The officers' only role was that of traffic control and neighborhood safety."
Last month, the Oakland City Council moved to terminate an agreement between the police department and ICE allowing some officers to be designated as customs task force officers, but Watson said the department may still "assist our local, state and federal agency agencies when requested as it pertains to traffic control, community safety and officer safety."
James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE in San Francisco, could not confirm what type of investigation was underway or whether any arrests had been made this morning. However, Schwab did explain the relationship between HSI and ICE.
"Under ICE there are two organizations," Schwab said. "One is Enforcement and Removal, that's deportation."
He continued: "And then there's Homeland Security Investigations. That's our criminal investigation side."
Additional information is unlikely to be released Wednesday, but more details might be available Thursday, according to Schwab.
"It's an ongoing investigation," he said. "They're going to have to go through everything."