Washington — Escalating its feud with so-called “sanctuary” cities, the Trump administration plans to dispatch dozens of border agents across the interior of the country to participate in immigration enforcement operations in major urban centers that limit cooperation with federal immigration agencies.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is deploying 100 of its agents to cities with large immigrant communities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Newark to assist Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE), which is in charge of deporting undocumented immigrants.
According to a CBP official, the outfit being dispatched includes 50 officers in the Office of Field Operations, which oversees the nation’s ports of entry, and 50 Border Patrol agents, including members of an elite, highly-trained unit known as BORTAC. The special outfit has been described as a SWAT-level team.
In a statement, acting ICE director Matthew Albence said help from CBP, another agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is necessary because of the “significant amount of additional time and resources” involved in enforcement operations within communities that refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in jails until his agents can apprehend them.
Albence said that ICE would be using CBP to help with “enforcement activity in response to the resource challenges stemming from sanctuary city policies.”
Homeland Security officials said that the 5,300 deportation officers ICE has at its disposal lack “sufficient resources” to apprehend and detain unauthorized immigrants who have been prioritized for deportation.
But it’s not clear which interior enforcement operations CBP officers will take part in. ICE said it does not reveal details about planned operations because of “law enforcement sensitivities” and the need to protect its officers.
The assignment, first reported by The New York Times, represents the latest move by the Trump administration to ramp up pressure on “sanctuary” cities — a frequent target of President Trump’s ire.
U.S. Border Patrol agents hold a line during a pro-migration protest in San Diego as seen through the border fence from Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, December 10, 2018. Rebecca Blackwell / AP