ICE deploys paramilitary units against sanctuary cities

Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC) are carrying M4 rifles with silencers.

In the wake of plainclothes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents shooting an unarmed tourist from Mexico, President Donald Trump deployed a hundred members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) — the Border Patrol’s equivalent to SWAT police — to 10 cities. 

Most of these cities are sanctuary sites that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal police like ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Armed with stun grenades and sniper training, these units are now tasked with invading migrant communities around the country. Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., New Orleans, New York and San Francisco are all targets.

As Democratic politicians rebuke Trump for what they call a political attack against the liberal policymakers of sanctuary cities, they graciously line their own pockets with federal funds from Trump’s Operation Relentless Pursuit. The initiative increases federal police presence and distributes an additional $71 million towards federal law enforcement in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. It seems that liberal policymakers at sanctuary sites are more upset about the lack of federal policing money than they are about the assault on their communities. Moreover, it’s clear that this is an onslaught from the ruling class on migrant communities and Black communities alike.

And as if this all-out racist attack on our cities wasn’t enough, the Supreme Court has continually affirmed the state’s right to terrorize oppressed communities.

On Feb. 25, the Supreme Court dismissed a civil case by the family of 15-year-old Mexican citizen Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca against U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa.

In 2010, the border police agent fired his weapon over the border from Texas, killing the unarmed teen as he stood on Mexican soil. Despite video evidence to the contrary, Mesa’s claim to self-defense against “thrown rocks” was upheld by the U.S. criminal justice system, and the U.S. denied Mexico’s request for Mesa to be extradited to face criminal charges in Mexico.

But the facts of Hernández Güereca’s murder weren’t at issue last week. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled on whether federal agents could be subject to lawsuits from foreign citizens in the case of cross-border shootings. Citing national security concerns, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal agents are constitutionally immune to being sued for killing people in foreign countries. Considering that the U.S. partakes in thousands of criminal attacks on foreign countries every year, the Supreme Court’s apprehension over “national security” seems well-warranted. 

The ruling had an immediate ripple effect in the courts and on the family of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. In 2012, Elena Rodríguez was shot ten times through a border fence by CBP agent Lonnie Swartz. Like Hernández Güereca, Elena Rodríguez was killed for allegedly “throwing rocks.” Though Swartz was the first U.S. law enforcement officer to be indicted in relation to an over-the-border killing, he was acquitted of all charges. Now, less than a week after setting their precedent against Hernández Güereca’s family, the Supreme Court returned the lawsuit against Swartz to a lower court. That makes two cases of civil-suit immunity for child-murder within a week.

The liberal justices, led by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, dissented to the majority-conservative court’s decision. But that’s all they could do within the confines of an unambigiously racist injustice system. A sanctimonious dissent is inadequate. When was the last time the Supreme Court affirmed the people’s right to food or flu vaccines? Blocked an illegal war or unjust sanction? The Supreme Court continues to prove that its main role is to justify the wealthy capitalists’ war upon oppressed and working people.