Amid Fears Over Reported ICE Raid, San Jose Leaders Remind Public of City’s Sanctuary Policy

A rumored immigration raid sent waves of panic through East San Jose this morning.

Though city officials said they had yet to confirm the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sighting, Mayor Sam Liccardo took the occasion to assure the public that San Jose police—as a rule—refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. ICE has yet to return multiple calls for comment.

But reports surfacing online at the start of the day included compelling enough detail to inspire very real fear in the largely Latino and Vietnamese East Side.

It started with a Tweet.

At 9:44am, civil rights nonprofit Silicon Valley De-Bug posted about what sounded like a sure sighting of ICE agents at the Story Road Walmart.

About 15 minutes later, another tweet—this time with a grainy photo.

The person composing the thread followed up with a link to resources at 10:08am.

At 11:43am, an urgently worded tweet offered details about an apparent confab between ICE agents and Walmart supervisors. The post described, in no uncertain terms, how multiple people saw the ICE agents, how the federal officers served a warrant and how they met with store managers for an undisclosed period of time.

Throughout the morning, reporters from Telemundo, NBC Bay Area and other TV stations showed up to see for themselves whether the feds were conducting a some kind of sweep on the big-box store. San Jose Inside stopped by the scene, too, at around 10:30am, by which time the reported agents had already left. When asked about the ICE sighting, a store manager replied that he knew nothing about it.

De-Bug activists declined to put San Jose Inside in touch with the eyewitnesses who reportedly told them about the incident. But one of the De-Bug staffers, who asked to withhold her name for fear of being targeted by authorities, summarized the events of that morning in an interview.

In her telling, the tipoff came around 8am.

An employee at a fast-food joint next to the Story Road Walmart notified her about what appeared to be immigration officials circling the strip mall, she said. As soon as she heard that, the De-Bug staffer said she raced to the scene of the sighting.

When she arrived shortly after 9am, she said she saw a few officers standing beside two unmarked cars. “They were putting on their vests,” she recalled. And, according to her firsthand account, those vests bore the acronym “ICE.”

She said one of the fast-food workers snapped the cell phone picture that a De-Bug colleague published on Twitter. The photo, which is difficult to make out, shows a light-colored sedan next to a white cargo van parked by a massive storage container.

Just to be safe, undocumented employees at the nearby fast-food joint reportedly left work, calling co-workers with authorized immigration statuses to cover their shifts.

The Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network—a hotline that, among other resources provided, dispatches volunteers to observe suspected ICE raids—arrived on the scene closer to 10am and after the vest-wearing men had already gone.

At 5:25pm, De-Bug posted another tweet that echoed some details from earlier but clarified a previous statement about the meeting between ICE and Walmart managers taking place close to noon (witnesses said it actually happened earlier in the morning). That tweet included the following message.

SIREN, an immigrant rights group, shared the De-Bug tweet, saying it, too, can attest to the ICE presence. It also called on people to join its Rapid Response Network (RRN). (It should be noted that the SIREN RRN comprises a text-only hotline and sometimes refers people to the similarly named but separate Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network. However, only the latter dispatches volunteers to observe suspected ICE raids).

Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, an immigration attorney who trains volunteers for the Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network, said he was one of the people who showed up a little too late to see any ICE officials for himself.

“There’s no confirmation,” he said in a conversation with San Jose Inside shortly after the De-Bug reports appeared online. “But we are here to remind employers and employees that they have certain rights. In particular, across the country, agents are using I-9 audits to unlawfully arrest employees. We informed employers that the responsible thing to do is never allow federal agents based on I-9 audits into a building, or to interview employees. And they have 72 hours to respond to any requests for documents.”

Some hours later, Liccardo issued a reminder of his own: that if ICE conducts sweeps in this city, local police have no part of that.

“Regardless of the truth of these rumors, we continue to emphasize that the San Jose Police Department does not participate in federal immigration enforcement,” the mayor said in a statement emailed to reporters Wednesday. “The SJPD will remain focused on protecting all our residents and responding to predatory crime in our community.”

Liccardo—who came under fire earlier this year by advocating for local jails to tell ICE about release dates of undocumented inmates convicted of certain violent crimes—also urged people to call 911 if they witness a crime or need emergency medical help. “Our police officers and first responders are here to serve our community, and will not disclose immigration status to ICE, nor participate in immigration enforcement operations,” he wrote in a bulletin addressed to “our immigrant neighbors and friends.”

While he agreed that the need for “ongoing vigilance is imperative,” the mayor also encouraged people to go about the course of their daily lives, to let their children attend school, to keep medical appointments, and so on. “We must not allow mere rumors to upend the lives of thousands of immigrant families,” he said.

Nonetheless, Liccardo said families concerned about being targeted by immigration agents should prepare a communications plan and line up an attorney just in case. He also shared contact information for the Santa Clara County Rapid Response hotline, which is run by a coalition of nonprofits that provide round-the-clock service for people to report suspected ICE enforcement. That number is 408.290.1144.

City officials said help can also be found through the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and by calling the SIREN hotline at 408.453.3017 (Spanish/English) and 408.453.3013 (Vietnamese/English). Liccardo also advised people to learn about their rights and additional resources available in the community at or by contacting the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs at 408.535.8146.

As for employers, the mayor’s message continued, they should be aware that California law requires them to request ICE officials to show a judicial warrant or other court order before allowing them on the premises of any non-public part of a workplace.

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.


  1. > As for employers, the mayor’s message continued,
    > they should be aware that California law requires
    > them to request ICE officials to show a judicial
    > warrant or other court order before allowing them
    > on the premises of any non-public part of a workplace.

    That should be standard operating procedure for any private person or business. Law enforcement: You want in? Show me a warrant. Every time.

  2. Good to see that our federal immigration officers have illegals on the run, despite the obstacles thrown up by the open borders crowd. Thank you, ICE!

  3. If ICE has a judicial warrant to remove someone who could very well be a dangerous criminal from our community – perhaps even someone wanted for violent crimes or murder – then those who attempt to thwart the actions of ICE would not only be endangering our community, but also obstructing justice. The US Attorney should begin prosecuting organizations that collectively obstruct justice under RICO statutes to discourage this behavior.

  4. I waited in line 12 looong years to get a green card, it pisses me to no end that people that break rules are rewarded by City politicians.

  5. How many hours, days, weeks, months, have I wasted over the past 20 years running estimates, giving fair bids based on my idea of what I consider to be a “living wage”, only to be underbid by my competitors.
    My competitors.
    My competitors’ idea of a “living wage” differs wildly from my own idea. That’s because my competitors, thanks to my local, state, and federal “representatives”, are not my peers. They are foreigners.
    I wonder how long Sam Liccardo would support his own “sanctuary city” policy if his own salary was reduced by 70% because HE had to compete for HIS job with illegal aliens. But, just like the vast majority of government employees and a pretty big plurality of the rest of our population he’s insulated from the reality.
    Elitists. Sam and the rest of our city council are elitists. Our whole f***ing government is peopled by elitists.
    That’ why so many Americans are saying “Go Trump”!

    • Although you provide little context, it’s good observation that a level playing field is important. Your competitors most likely from the city or county next door, or the next state over, or from across the country. These days, they could very well be overseas. I wish we knew more what you were talking about in your rant. And how it relates to this post about a potential ICE raid in San Jose.

      BTW, only about 30% of Americans are saying Go Chump. Those people at his rallies are all huddled together so that in the camera it looks like there are a lot of them. But there are not.

      • > BTW, only about 30% of Americans are saying Go Chump. Those people at his rallies are all huddled together so that in the camera it looks like there are a lot of them. But there are not.

        I had no idea!

        Thanks for sharing.

        I have suspected for awhile that my TV has been playing tricks on me.

        Question: Why couldn’t Eric Swalwell figure out what Trump was doing and use the same trick to make his rallies look bigger?

      • SCC Resident
        You really can’t see any relevance of my remarks to the subject of this article?
        Those Elitists R Us blinders must work pretty good.

  6. When someone is elected to local public office and they are sworn in – don’t they in fact pledge an oath to uphold the US Constitution and uphold the laws of the USA? So by not supporting US law enforcement officials aren’t our local politicians breaking the law AND they oath to uphold the said law?

    Could someone, citizen or police officer go to city hall and arrest politicians for violating US law and breaking their oath of office to the citizens they are elected to defend and protect?

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out?

  7. I think that the Constitution is brought up when getting sworn into a federal-level position, not state or local. For instance, the US president has to uphold the constitution, and when he doesn’t, well, the Cheeto-in-Chief faces impeachment inquiries.

    Further, local officials, including local law enforcement, are not required to assist in the enforcement of federal law. In fact, in the case of immigration, the locals _should not_ be getting involved at all. It’s clear that immigration is a federal responsibility. So yeah, you go ahead and march into Liccardo’s office and try to arrest him on federal charges, and we’ll see you soon in Elmwood.

    I don’t have time to google all that for you, but you should be able to easily find references that back up my claims above.

    Hope that helps.

  8. this is from the San Jose city charter – – -SECTION 903. Oath of Office.
    Each officer of the City, before entering upon the duties of his office, shall take the oath of
    office as provided for in the Constitution of this State and shall file the same with the City

    here is CA Constitution – – – ARTICLE XX MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS [SEC. 1 – SEC. 23] ( Article 20 adopted 1879. )

    which includes the words ” support and defend the Constitution of the United States” which would imply upholding the law hence the term – – -“Law Enforcement”- – – -get it?

  9. So SCC Resident has no snarky come back for my last reply. Figures, when confronted with facts these types just ignore the whole issue and move on to the next crazy claim – – –

  10. SCC you are such a good progressive. Only ones who should follow and sweat to uphold the constitution are those situations which benefit you or up uphold your beliefs. And by the way all local police are required to swear to uphold the constitution of the United States. Get over it

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