This Valentines’ Day weekend, terror will reign in migrant communities instead of love. President Trump has chosen this weekend of all weekends to escalate his war against America’s undocumented immigrants, announcing plans to deploy “elite tactical squads” to sanctuary cities as part of a nationwide mass arrest raid.
The New York Times reports that the “specially trained officers are being sent to cities including Chicago and New York to boost the enforcement power of local ICE officers… Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J.”
100 officers will be deployed to support regular ICE agents. Clad in body armor and armed with equipment like stun grenades, the SWAT-team-style “BORTAC” officers are usually only used to target high-risk violent individuals in rugged parts of the border. They are trained to bust into drug dens and cartel safehouses, but now they’re being sent into cities for “run-of-the-mill” immigration raids against families.
One agent familiar with the operation said that “agents will not be busting down doors or engaging in shootouts,” which begs the question of why one would need the elite troopers at all.
The use of the ICE SWAT teams where they aren’t needed is a typically Trumpian show of spiteful cruelty. Their use is clearly intended to inspire fear in the hearts of immigrants and let them know that they aren’t safe even in “sanctuary cities.” In these places, local cooperation with federal immigration agents is limited to protect “low priority” undocumented folks from being thrown into ICE’s concentration camps and then dumped over the border in Mexico, to be kidnapped and murdered by vicious cartel members.
While the president’s acting ICE director Matthew T. Albence gave the usual complaints about being “forced” to make at-large arrests without the cooperation of local police, the ex-commissioner of the Customs and Border Patrol pointed out that there was absolutely no need to use these units. “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…they’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this” said Gil Kerlikowske to the Times.
The raids are just the latest in President Trump and his white supremacy czar Stephen Miller’s incessant drive to inflict as much suffering and terror upon migrant communities as they can. Their most recent development has been the “Remain in Mexico” policy, in which 57,000 people, including 16,000 children, have been sent to Mexico to await their hearings in the United States.
At least 816 murders, rapes, and kidnappings have been documented amongst them, including 201 kidnappings or attempted kidnappings of children. “At our office in Tijuana, we’ve literally had victims of human trafficking come to our office, after escaping human traffickers. And we ourselves have been faced with personal danger as we’re forced to find places for people to hide” says lawyer Nicole Ramos of legal and humanitarian organization Al Otro Lado.
The Trump administration’s immigration policy is and always has been unforgivably monstrous. Deliberately dehumanizing and seeking to inflict as much suffering as possible for the sake of it, our next president has a duty to make sure that those responsible face justice for the lives they’ve destroyed.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.