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 WolfHillicon Valley: Malicious emails spike amid coronavirus | Real ID deadline delayed one year | Trump officials to limit Huawei's chip access Travel industry hails REAL ID extension, says may need to be longer Real ID deadline delayed one year amid coronavirus pandemic 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 NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: HHS hit by cyberattack amid coronavirus outbreak | Senators urge FCC to shore up internet access for students | Sanders ramps up Facebook ad spending | Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline House Dems ask DHS to delay Real ID deadline Hillicon Valley: Internet providers vow to maintain service amid coronavirus | Pentagon looks to revisit 'war cloud' decision | Gates steps down from Microsoft board MORE (D-Miss.) and subcommittee chairwomen of the two panels, Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCoronavirus anxiety spreads across Capitol Hill Congress tiptoes toward remote voting House passes key surveillance bill with deadline looming MORE (D-Calif.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceTop Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Buttigieg plans NY fundraiser with Michael J. Fox House Dems demand answers regarding holding of Iranian-Americans at border MORE (D-N.Y.), wrote in the letter.

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"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.”

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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 CummingsMaryland postpones primary over coronavirus fears Maryland governor: 'Simply not enough supplies' on hand to tackle coronavirus Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges 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.