US border agents to pursue migrants in sanctuary cities

  • Matthew Albence, right, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, speaks during a news conference Jan. 17 in New York. The country's top immigration official blamed the "sanctuary policies" of New York City on Friday for the sexual assault and killing of a 92-year-old woman. AP PHO

Los Angeles Times
Published: 2/14/2020 11:49:44 PM
Modified: 2/14/2020 11:49:31 PM

LOS ANGELES — Federal immigration officials confirmed Friday that border agents and officers, including those in tactical units, will be deployed to so-called sanctuary cities to assist in the arrests of immigrants in the country illegally.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed details of the planned deployment that were first reported in The New York Times. The agency referred further questions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security.

CBP will deploy 50 Border Patrol agents and 50 field operations customs officers in nine areas, according to the agency. Specially trained officers will be sent to cities including Chicago and New York, The New York Times reported.

Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J., according to the agency. The deployment of the teams will run from February through May.

The deployment of CBP agents, some with tactical training, to the interior of the country is unusual and represents another escalation in the confrontation between the Trump administration and local jurisdictions that are resisting stricter immigration enforcement.

CBP agents and officers being detailed to help ICE will come from different sectors and job positions, including some trained in tactical operations, according to the agency.

“ICE is utilizing CBP to supplement enforcement activity in response to the resource challenges stemming from sanctuary city policies,” ICE Director Matthew Albence said in a statement.

Albence said in the statement that the action was being taken in response to sanctuary city law enforcement agencies not cooperating with federal authorities by turning over immigrants being held in local jails. As a result, the statement continued, federal officers “are forced to make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities.”

“This effort requires a significant amount of additional time and resources,” Albence said. “When sanctuary cities release these criminals back to the street, it increases the occurrence of preventable crimes, and more importantly, preventable victims.”

The number of non-detained cases increased from 2.6 million in fiscal year 2018 to more than 3.2 million in the following fiscal year, according to DHS.

“With 5,300 ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) law enforcement officers — some of whom were detailed to the border — ICE does not have sufficient resources to effectively manage the sustained increase in non-detained cases which is exacerbated by the rise of sanctuary jurisdictions,” the agency said in a statement.

Agents being deployed include those within the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, according to The New York Times report. The unit “provides an immediate response capability to emergent and high-risk incidents requiring specialized skills and tactics,” according to the CBP website.

“Deploying elite SWAT-like units to American cities is dangerous,” said Naureen Shah of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is transparent retaliation against local governments for refusing to do the administration’s bidding.

“It will put lives at risk by further militarizing our streets. Local governments should not face reprisals for focusing on local community needs and using taxpayer money responsibly, instead of helping to deport and detain community members.”

Other immigrant advocates dismissed the deployment as a political move by President Donald Trump to excite anti-immigration elements among his supporters and intimidate communities that have adopted sanctuary policies to ensure people cooperate with local law enforcement regardless of whether they are in the country illegally or not.

John Sandweg, who headed ICE during the administration of former President Barack Obama, also called the latest move by the Trump administration “dangerous.”

“You’re pulling critical manpower off the border and you’re doing it really candidly for a political show of force,” Sandweg said. “It takes different skill sets to operate in an urban environment than it does in a border environment.”

Sandweg called it a move “to offend so-called sanctuary cities ... by deploying a bunch of Army-looking Border Patrol agents.”

“No ICE agent who is honest to you would every say they need Border Patrol to bail them out. Ever,” he continued. “It’s insulting to ICE agents who are more than capable enough to take care of any threats out there and have and do.”

The planned deployment sets up another clash between the Trump administration and cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco that have vowed their law enforcement officials would not aid ICE in its sweeps.

The relationship between ICE and local law enforcement has long been delicate. Since Trump took office, it has grown only more tenuous as police grapple with maintaining communication with ICE while also balancing transparency with community and civic leaders.

This story includes information from The Associated Press.

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