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Chicago Officials Respond to Trump Administration’s Latest Move Targeting Sanctuary Cities

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicagoans will not be “bullied” by the Trump administration’s latest move to send militarized teams of border patrol agents into sanctuary cities.

“To all our neighbors and friends, I want you to know that Chicago stands with you and will always fight to keep you safe,” Lightfoot said in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday. “We are a Welcoming City and proud of it.”

Hundreds of people gather in the Loop to protest prison camps on the border and ICE raids in Chicago over the summer. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

On Friday, the New York Times reported the Trump administration is sending teams made up of members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) to work with local Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in at least ten cities across the country. BORTAC agents, who have enhanced Special Forces type training, normally conduct high-risk operations. The agents deployed in sanctuary cities will assist ICE agents with “run-of-the-mill” arrests, “in order to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety, and strengthen our national security,” according to a spokesperson for Customs and Border Patrol. 

“As we have noted for years, in jurisdictions where we are not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, our officers are forced to make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities,” Matthew T. Albence, acting director of ICE, told the Times. “When sanctuary cities release these criminals back to the street, it increases the occurrence of preventable crimes, and more importantly, preventable victims.”

Administration officials and loyalists have long tried to paint a picture of alleged “lawlessness” in sanctuary cities that’s rooted in xenophobia and steeped in fascism. Critics say this latest move is retaliation from the administration against cities that oppose its policies and are trying to protect immigrant communities, particularly ones with undocumented peoples. More militarized police forces working in sanctuary cities will only exacerbate fear in immigrant communities, and the potential for situations to escalate will become higher. 

“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 commissioner of CBP and former chief of police in Seattle. “They’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this.”

Naureen Shah, senior policy and advocacy counsel on immigrants’ rights for American Civil Liberties Union, called the move a “dangerous and wasteful use of resources that primarily harms communities of color.” 

“This is transparent retaliation against local governments for refusing to do the administration’s bidding,” Shah said in a statement. “It will put lives at risk by further militarizing our streets. Local governments should not face reprisals for focusing on local community needs and using taxpayer money responsibly, instead of helping to deport and detain community members.”

Chicago aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez both said over the weekend they would work with immigrant communities to “organize” and “be ready,” sharing ‘know your rights’ information on social media. 

“We’re gonna be out knocking on doors, informing residents of their rights, but also making sure that, should immigration officials be present attempting to deport our families, that we’re gonna be prepared to take action to defend one another,” Rosa told the Sun-Times on Friday. “That can be yelling, ‘You have a right to remain silent. Don’t tell them anything.’ It can be recording the interaction so we have video to use in the future…or, it can actually take the form of people using their bodies to engage in non-violent civil disobedience.”

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