The Slatest

Trump Administration Deploys Elite Border Agents to Sanctuary Cities

A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer takes part in a operational readiness exercise at the San Ysidro port of entry in the United States as seen from Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on November 22, 2018.
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer takes part in a operational readiness exercise at the San Ysidro port of entry in the United States as seen from Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on November 22, 2018.
PEDRO PARDO/Getty Images

Tactical units trained to carry out dangerous missions along the southern border are being deployed to sanctuary cities across the country to pursue migrants. The agents are being sent to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers carry out operations arresting immigrants who are in the United States illegally. The personnel are specifically being sent to cities were local law enforcement limits cooperation with ICE agents, marking the latest escalation in the White House confrontation with sanctuary cities. The deployment of 100 officers will run from February through May across at least nine cities: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, and Newark, N.J. The goal of the mission is to increase arrests in the sanctuary cities by at least 35 percent, according to the New York Times.

Some of the Customs and Border Patrol agents who are being deployed inside the United States have tactical training and act as “the SWAT team of the Border Patrol.” Those agents have undergone training similar to that of Special Forces, including sniper certification, to target violent individuals, including traffickers. Experts said that while agents from the military-like Border Patrol Tactical Unit have been sent on missions outside the border areas in the past, it still made no sense to send them to carry out the type of administrative arrests that ICE officers usually make. “If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don’t send the SWAT team. And BORTAC is the SWAT team,” said Gil Kerlikowske, a former CBP commissioner. “They’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this.”

Many were quick to criticize the move, calling it a political ploy to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment that could spark violent confrontations. “Deploying elite SWAT-like units to American cities is dangerous,” said Naureen Shah of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is about further militarizing streets.” Shah also warned that the officers who have not been trained to carry out work in cities could use “excessive force” which could embolden “ICE agents to do the same” and needlessly escalate situations.

The deployment of the tactical units also means there will be fewer of the specially trained agents along the border, despite the Trump administration declaring a national emergency.
The White House made it clear this past week that Trump will extend the national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border for another year. “It is truly alarming that President Trump is moving resources away from the border just to ratchet up his cruel immigration agenda, throw meat to his base, and inflict revenge on states that don’t do what he says,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said. Even though the Trump administration has often tried to characterize sanctuary cities as hotbeds of criminal activity, the little research that has been carried out on the issue suggests that is not true.