Homeland Security is sending elite Border Patrol teams to assist ICE in tracking down and deporting people from sanctuary cities, The New York Times reported Friday, marking a major escalation in President Trump’s battle with communities that shield illegal immigrants.
Officials said they were pressed into the move because they don’t get help from local authorities in those sanctuaries.
Immigrant-rights advocates called it a mistake, and described the additional manpower as retribution against sanctuaries.
“This is transparent retaliation against local governments for refusing to do the administration’s bidding,” said Naureen Shah at the American Civil Liberties Union.
The New York Times reported that Customs and Border Protection is sending 100 agents to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. CBP usually handles border and port matters, while ICE is responsible for interior enforcement and deportations.
ICE, though, has increasingly struggled against sanctuaries, which while they vary in their exact policies, generally restrict cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration law enforcement.
The most extreme of jurisdictions refuse all communications, including refusing to tell ICE when illegal immigrant targets with criminal records are being released from jail.
ICE says it wants to be on hand to pick them up and deport them, getting criminals out of communities.
Sanctuaries argue that if they cooperate with ICE it will scare immigrants from reporting other crimes.
The Times reported that target cities include New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J.
Earlier this week the Justice Department announced a round of lawsuits aimed at sanctuaries.
One lawsuit challenges a California law that bans private prisons. ICE relies heavily on private facilities for detention capability in the state.
A second lawsuit challenges New Jersey’s policy of restricting communications with ICE.
A third lawsuit asks to overturn a King County, Washington, policy banning ICE from using an airport for detention flights. That has disrupted deportation operations throughout the northwest, ICE says.
Homeland Security also banned New Yorkers from signing up for some trusted traveler programs after that state’s new sanctuary law denied CBP and ICE access to state motor vehicle and driver’s records.
Mr. Trump, in remarks at the White House Friday afternoon, blasted sanctuaries and gave a platform to Daria Ortiz, whose 92-year-old grandmother was slain earlier this year in New York City in a death the president blamed on sanctuary policies.
Reeaz Khan, the Guyanese illegal immigrant accused of killing Maria Fuertes, had been released by New York in November in defiance of an ICE detainer request.
Ms. Ortiz broke down in tears as she recalled her grandmother, a legal immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Mr. Trump put his arm on her back to comfort her as she spoke.
“The tragedy is my grandmother’s not ever going to be here again,” Ms. Ortiz said. “The man that is responsible for this should have never had the opportunity to do this.”
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