SWAT-Style Border Patrol Agents to be Deployed in ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Photo: A Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) team in a training exercise

By Henry Perez

President Donald Trump has announced that the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), a SWAT-style team reserved for special operations, will be patrolling and helping make arrests in so-called sanctuary cities across the US such as Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, and many others.

This authorization is the Trump administration’s reaction to the practice of ‘sanctuary cities’ deliberately limiting information sharing and cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. While BORTAC is supposedly reserved for special operations such as stash house raids and militarized apprehensions, including across national borders, the force will also be deployed to working class immigrant communities to stoke fear and increase general apprehension rates.

‘Sanctuary cities’ generally refuse to comply with ICE holds on undocumented immigrants, which would keep immigrants who are arrested at the local level in custody until ICE can apprehend them for unrelated immigration violations.

Regardless of what the state or local governments do to side-step ICE collaboration, the term ‘sanctuary’ has no real meaning or value when federal enforcement supersedes all jurisdictions and ICE can act unilaterally. As seen earlier this month in New York City, itself a ‘sanctuary city,’ a man was shot in the face by plainclothes ICE agents when they attempted to detain his stepfather. With ICE agents already enacting brutal violence on the street, the hyper-militarized BORTAC can only further escalate arrests, resulting in more casualties.

The Trump administration appears to be sending out BORTAC agents to cater to its base in the ramp up to the 2020 presidential election. In addition to the announcement of BORTAC, Trump is moving forward on the appropriation of $3.6 billion in military funds to be spent on completing the border wall.

Undocumented immigrants are one of the US imperialists’ primary scapegoats to rally their mass base, and the deployment of BORTAC feeds the reactionary idea that they must be hunted down with elite military teams. Imperialists such as Trump paint all immigrants from oppressed nations as criminals, allowing reactionaries to justify their targeting by the Border Patrol, civilian border militias, or by lone wolf fascists, such as in the mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart.

Armed with stun grenades and sniper-trained, BORTAC agents’ militarized appearance is intended to project a false sense of US imperialism’s invincibility, but it in fact shows its overreliance on hollow militarism in the face of rising tides of the people’s resistance at home and across the globe.