WASHINGTON – Federal agents who normally patrol the U.S. border will be deployed to “sanctuary” cities across the country that are hindering stepped-up immigration enforcement, officials said Friday.
The deployment of Customs and Border Patrol agents, some with tactical training, to the interior of the country is unusual and represents another escalation in the confrontation between the Trump administration and local jurisdictions that are resisting stricter immigration enforcement.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence said additional forces are needed because sanctuary cities are releasing immigrants who are in the country without legal authorization from local jails before his agents can take them into custody.
“This effort requires a significant amount of additional time and resources,” Albence said in a statement. “When sanctuary cities release these criminals back to the street, it increases the occurrence of preventable crimes and, more importantly, preventable victims.”
The acting director did not disclose where the agents would be deployed, but an official said they would include such major sanctuary cities as San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Boston.
Albence also did not provide details on the specific types of agents being deployed, but the official said they would come from varied U.S. locations and would include officers with tactical training that is typically intended to prepare them for potential confrontations with traffickers and other criminals.
The deployment, first reported by The New York Times, comes as President Donald Trump and others in his administration look to increase pressure on the sanctuary city movement.
The Justice Department this week filed one lawsuit against New Jersey for prohibiting state and local law enforcement from sharing information about inmates in the U.S. illegally and another against Washington state’s King County over a policy that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from using the King County International Airport-Boeing Field for deportation flights.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security said it would bar New York residents from such trusted traveler programs as Global Entry because of state law that prohibits immigration agents from accessing motor vehicle records.
It is unclear if CBP agents have been or will be dispatched to Albuquerque, a self-declared “immigrant-friendly” city. A spokesman for the department sent a statement that did not directly address Journal questions.
But earlier this week, city officials issued a statement referencing a “recent surge” in local arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. They said area immigrant advocacy groups reported about 30 to 40 ICE arrests per week during early February, up from the typical two to three per week, and that agents were seen wearing vests that say “police.” Albuquerque officials reiterated that the agents are not Albuquerque Police Department officers.
Albuquerque policy prohibits the use of city resources to assist in the enforcement of immigration law and also prohibits immigration agents access to nonpublic areas of city property without a judicial warrant. City agencies cannot ask about anyone’s citizenship status unless it is required to determine eligibility for a benefit program or city employment.
“We want immigrants to feel safe when they need to call police for help. Use of ‘Police’ uniforms is misleading and undermines the trust that the Albuquerque Police Department has worked so hard to build,” the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion and Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.
ICE did not respond to Journal questions about how many arrests it has made in Albuquerque this month or if its agents wear “police” vests.
A spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on “planned” operations or specific resource allocation.
Recently, Albuquerque’s sanctuary city status has sparked friction between local leaders and the federal government. Officials have warned that Albuquerque’s policy may make it ineligible for millions of dollars in federal grant funding meant to fight violent crime. The program, “Operation Relentless Pursuit,” has nothing to do with enforcing immigration law, but the city’s refusal to certify that it complies with certain immigration laws would disqualify it, according to U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson.
Albuquerque leaders have described the conditions as “political extortion.”
Journal staff writer Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.