Last Friday the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed it has deployed specially trained agents to sanctuary cities like Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J. to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents capture undocumented immigrants.
The decision of CPB to send 100 members of its Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) to track down and detain undocumented immigrants has recieved immediate backlash from elected official at both the local and federal level as well as immigration rights activists.
BOARTAC is an elite CPB unit, much like a SWAT team, that are usually deployed to remote and dangerous areas of the U.S. southern border, Iraq and Afghanistan. The use of such a unit is now stoking fear among Boston’s immigrant population.
“Because this initiative is unnecessary, unwelcome, dangerous, menacing, retaliatory and unlikely to achieve its stated goal, we write to demand that you reverse course and to pose questions to better understand your rationale for employing paramilitary-style immigration personnel equipped with ‘stun grenades and enhanced Special Forces-type training, including sniper certification’ in Boston and elsewhere in the United States.” wrote Mass U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey in a joint letter to the CBP opposing the deployment. “BORTAC personnel are not meant to focus on routine operations in some of the United States’ largest cities, and there is no need for them to be part of these operations. Last July, an ‘emergency’ supplemental appropriation was passed and signed into law (over our opposition), providing ICE with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding. It is unclear why ICE now needs to draw upon elite CBP resources in order to carry out its operations.”
Warren and Markey argue the real explanation for this deployment appears to be President Donald Trump and his administration’s attempts to “punish American cities” that reject his immigration policies.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley agreed with Warren and Markey.
“Let us be clear, this move has nothing to do with public safety, but rather serves only to further the Trump Administration’s agenda to intimidate and retaliate against cities that uphold the dignity and humanity of our immigrant neighbors,” she said. “We will not stand for this. Where this administration chooses cruelty, the City of Boston will choose compassion. We will do everything in our power to affirm the safety and humanity of our immigrant neighbors. I call on each of my colleagues in government in the City of Boston and targeted cities across the nation to affirm that we will not comply or cooperate with this abuse of power from the Trump Administration. We know our communities are made stronger by our immigrant neighbors and we will not turn our back on them in this time of persecution.”
The Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) called for support so they can continue fighting immigration cases and deportations pro-bono.
“Sanctuary cities are under attack,” said LCR in a statement. “Special tactical teams that normally operate at the border are being deployed in sanctuary cities across the country. Make no mistake: this is all designed to intimidate immigrant friendly cities and towns. These tactics provoke fear and uncertainty. Immigrants are pushed deeper into the shadows, and victims and witnesses of crime are reluctant to come forward. This makes us all unsafe. Right now, we need more immigrant friendly and sanctuary policies, not less. We need more humanitarian protections to keep our families and neighbors safe. We stand ready to deploy our pro bono network to protect and empower immigrant communities.”
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