Case #2191.0

Making a Statement: Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Sanctuary City of Oakland, CA

Publication Date: October 8, 2020
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In February 2018, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf learned through unofficial sources that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was planning to arrest a large number of undocumented immigrants in her city. Oakland had been a “sanctuary city” since 1986, and more than one in ten residents were undocumented. Mayor Schaaf believed that the ICE action was the Trump administration’s political retaliation against California’s sanctuary cities. She feared that law-abiding immigrants in her community—who she saw as scapegoats for a broken federal immigration system—would be swept up in the raid and subject to deportation. Faced with very little time and potentially significant legal implications, Mayor Schaaf had to decide whether and how to alert the community to a threat she took to be highly credible. The case is designed to help mayors, city leaders, and other public executives think through adaptive leadership challenges with highly sensitive moral dimensions. An epilogue, HKS Case 2191.1, follows this case. A practitioner guide, HKS Case 2191.4, accompanies this case.

Learning Objective:

Understand and consider different moral perspectives and different roles or bases of moral authority that may be in tension when examining complex moral questions. Carefully analyze moral dilemmas and craft courageous leadership responses around difficult social issues.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author(s):
Gaylen Moore, Christopher Robichaud, Jorrit de Jong, and Anna Burgess
Faculty Leads:
Jorrit de Jong
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative