The Slatest

Trump Administration Reportedly Plans Preelection ICE Raids of Sanctuary Cities as Political Ploy

Federal officers guard the front gate of the ICE detention center in Portland, Oregon, during a protest on Sept. 18.
Federal officers guard the front gate of the ICE detention center in Portland, Oregon, during a protest on Sept. 18. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, in need of another dose of fear to keep his sputtering reelection bid afloat, is now, officially, throwing the kitchen sink of chauvinism at American voters: casually rehashing racist tropes directed at suburban women, a nod to white supremacists, tough-guy “law and order” calls from the cheap seats for whomever that works for, and—what else?—ICE raids! We’re talking too much about the deadly pandemic that flourished under Trump’s leadership—let’s get the wall back in play. To make that happen, the Trump administration is going to use American taxpayer dollars and is planning a series of immigration enforcement operations in so-called sanctuary cities, the Washington Post reports, with such “sanctuary ops” starting as soon as this week in California. The publicity stunt would then move to swing states—Denver and Philadelphia—officials told the Post, with the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, slated to tag along on the ground to help focus the spotlight on the stunt. Of those three American cities, you can bet Wolf will pop up in the one located in Pennsylvania.

Upping the pressure on sanctuary cities ahead of the election has been floated around the Trump administration, but the idea was put on hold in the spring due to the coronavirus, which resulted in far fewer Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and arrests. But that could be about to change. “Trump has inveighed against sanctuary jurisdictions throughout his presidency, and he has expanded those attacks to include Democratic mayors in cities convulsed by racial justice demonstrations and sporadic rioting after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the Post notes. “The immigration operation would sync with two themes of Trump’s reelection campaign: his crackdown on immigration and his push to vilify cities led by Democrats, whom he blames for crime and violence.”

While extraordinary in its cravenness, it doesn’t seem that unusual for a president who held his party convention at the White House, contrary to American political norms and literal laws. Even the Trump administration admitted the operation is, essentially, a last-minute political play. “Two officials with knowledge of plans for the sanctuary op described it as more of a political messaging campaign than a major ICE operation, noting that the agency already concentrates on immigration violators with criminal records and routinely arrests them without much fanfare,” the Post reports. Expect a sudden surge of fanfare.