Last month, Erick Díaz-Cruz was shot in the face by an on-duty Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in Brooklyn, New York, outside his own home. The 26 year old was trying to protect his mother’s boyfriend, who was confronted by ICE agents after they refused to identify themselves. The agents immediately became violent when Díaz-Cruz questioned them for it, pulling out a weapon as he stood just steps away from them. ICE stated they confronted the family this way because the New York City Police Department released him from custody three days earlier without contacting ICE. The lack of communication between the NYPD and ICE was the result of New York City’s sanctuary policy, which prohibits city agencies like the NYPD from aiding federal deportation efforts.
While the policy is well-intentioned, it has led to ICE deploying more aggressive tactics, confronting suspected undocumented immigrants on the streets or in their own homes without any oversight or accountability. The city’s sanctuary status does not do nearly enough to protect immigrant communities, and may in fact put immigrants in even greater danger.
In response to sanctuary policies, the Trump administration is now planning to deploy Border Patrol SWAT teams to sanctuary cities and escalate arrest operations in order to retaliate against city governments for not cooperating. Trump has effectively waged war on sanctuary cities and the greatest casualties will be immigrants themselves. These Border Control Tactical Units, known as BORTAC, will be armed with gear such as stun grenades and enhanced special forces-type training, including sniper certification. Trained snipers who were formerly involved in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be deployed on the streets of New York to target immigrants.
ICE has significantly stepped up deportation operations since cities like New York have passed sanctuary policies. The agency has turned to working around the NYPD by targeting suspected undocumented immigrants on the streets, in courthouses, in hospitals and in their own homes. Arrests for deportation have actually increased across the country and New York City has the highest arrest rates as well as the largest ICE presence in the entire state.
ICE is using increasingly unlawful tactics to terrorize immigrant communities with zero accountability. Every year, Congress gives the Department of Homeland Security and ICE itself a blank check of taxpayer money for immigration enforcement without any oversight, even as they use disproportionate violence and scare tactics as part of their agenda. Now, the Trump administration is planning to send immigration SWAT teams to New York, increasing the likelihood of violent arrests and deportation.
Soon enough, “sanctuary cities” will be overrun by SWAT-like immigration agents and deportations and detentions will only continue to increase. Though Mayor de Blasio loves to boast that New York is a “proud city of immigrants” and “the safest big city in America,” New York is not keeping immigrant communities safe at all and they will only be put in more danger with the federal government’s newest escalations.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March. 2, 2020 print edition. Email Asha Ramachandran at [email protected]