Top Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities

Top Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats on the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees are demanding documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding plans to send elite law enforcement units typically assigned to the southern border to take part in arrest operations in sanctuary cities across the country.

In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus ICE acting director resigns weeks after assuming post Ex-DHS chief says Trump bears some responsibility for Capitol riots: 'What he says matters' MORE on Monday, the Democratic lawmakers demanded a "full briefing" within a week as well as documents by March 2 listing details such as the cities where the specially trained officers are expected to be deployed and the duration of their assignment.

"The committees have serious concerns over the utility of engaging these highly militarized units, which were never intended for routine immigration enforcement activities, in densely populated metropolitan areas," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi names 9 impeachment managers Republicans gauge support for Trump impeachment Clyburn blasts DeVos and Chao for 'running away' from 25th Amendment fight MORE (D-N.Y.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? New coalition aims to combat growing wave of ransomware attacks Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down MORE (D-Miss.) and subcommittee chairwomen of the two panels, Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenLawmakers briefed on 'horrifying,' 'chilling' security threats ahead of inauguration Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress Capitol Police chief announces resignation after pro-Trump riots MORE (D-Calif.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceTensions running high after gun incident near House floor Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots Trump's Georgia call triggers debate on criminal penalties MORE (D-N.Y.), wrote in the letter.


"Tactics such as these, which appear to be politically motivated and not grounded in national security, are unacceptable and do nothing more than punish residents and instill fear in communities," they wrote.

The letter comes days after the administration confirmed it would send 100 border patrol officers to sanctuary cities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The New York Times reported late last week that the Trump administration is sending specially trained officers in the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) that normally are involved in high-risk and potentially violent operations at the southern border to sanctuary cities such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles to enhance the presence of local ICE officers.

Other cities include Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J., according to the Times. The deployment is expected to last from February through May.

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told media outlets that it was sending the 100 officers to work with ICE “in order to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety, and strengthen our national security.”


The Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that the plan "appears to be yet another retaliatory move aimed at cities that have opted to implement immigration policies with which the administration does not agree."

They pointed to DHS announcing earlier this month that New York residents would no longer be eligible for the Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs in response to the state’s law permitting undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. New York law prohibits the state from sending data to ICE and CBP.

And last year, Nadler, Thompson and then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs MORE (D-Md.) demanded documents on the Trump administration's proposal to release detained immigrants into sanctuary cities, which tend to be in congressional districts represented by Democrats.

“Not only does the Administration lack the legal authority to transfer detainees in this manner, it is shocking that the President and senior Administration officials are even considering manipulating release decisions for purely political reasons," top Democrats wrote in a letter to Trump administration officials last April.