ICE calls in reinforcements in Boston, other cities

Officials target sanctuary jurisdictions for immigration enforcement

CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION tactical team members are on the ground in Boston, and are coordinating with the local division of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement efforts.

Lawrence Payne, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement that ICE does not have “sufficient resources” to effectively manage the “sustained increase in non-detained cases which is exacerbated by the rise of sanctuary jurisdictions.” He said border patrol agents are being detailed to help ICE, and will come from a variety of positions, including tactical operations.

Sanctuary jurisdictions are municipalities that limit or ban their local police departments from sharing information and working with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

The New York Times reported Friday that the Trump administration is sending 100 border patrol agents to sanctuary cities, including Boston, to support heightened immigration enforcement efforts this weekend. Other cities mentioned in the Times article were New York, Detroit, Newark, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Houston.

Members of an elite tactical unit known as BORTAC, which works within Border Patrol in a manner similar to a SWAT team, are among those deployed to Boston.

The New England field office for ICE sent out a press release seeking information on the whereabouts of five “criminal alien fugitives” with active warrants. Among those being sought was Jose Francisco Guaman Loja, a man who had been arrested in 2019 for violating his probation related to an assault with a dangerous weapon. Loja had been deported three times previously. The release claimed “ICE’s detainer was ignored, and he was released to the streets in January 2020 by Brockton court.”

Todd Lyons, the acting field office director for ICE, issued a statement saying “the politicization of law enforcement at any level, whether it be state, federal, or local, does not make anyone safer.” He said federal officials will notify the public when a criminal threat is released back into their neighborhoods.”

Several Massachusetts municipalities consider themselves sanctuary communities for immigrants, including Amherst, Cambridge, Northampton, and Somerville. Boston, via its Trust Act, has its own limitations on communications between law enforcement and ICE.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins issued a statement condemning the deployment. “Deploying militarized units into neighborhoods creates even greater fear and disorder and significantly harms relationships that local law enforcement agencies and public officials have worked so hard to build and foster. Don’t be fooled. None of this makes us safer. This is being done to strike fear and terror throughout our immigrant communities. This is being done to be cruel and to silence and terrorize people. This is being done to limit the number of people that partake in the 2020 census,” she said.

“The outrageous actions of this President do not make our nation or our local communities safer.  I am so proud to have joined and pushed the 2019 legal actions filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  As a result, a federal judge granted our request for a preliminary injunction barring civil arrests in the public and surrounding areas of our state courts.  Now, Massachusetts is the only state in the entire country that affords our immigrant brothers and sisters this protection, which they so rightfully deserve,” Rollins said.

“Massachusetts is ground zero,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, condemning the move. “We fully expect tactical teams from the border to be deployed in sanctuary communities in our own backyard in Boston.”

He said the move is nothing “short of retaliation,” and is a punishment for the city and advocates pushing successfully for immigrant rights, including a successful temporary injunction on ICE’s ability to detain immigrants at county courthouses in the state. That injunction arose out of a lawsuit filed last April by Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorneys Marian Ryan and Rachael Rollins. Lawyers for Civil Rights is one of the groups of attorneys involved with the lawsuit.

“Scarce taxpayer dollars should not be used to terrorize immigrant families and children,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.

This weekend’s deployment launch is the latest move by the Trump administration to clamp down on so-called illegal immigration. It will run through May. US Attorney General William Barr recently announced that the Trump administration would be conducting a “significant escalation” in its efforts against sanctuary cities for “unconstitutionally interfering” with ICE.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was the first in the Massachusetts delegation castigate the operation, and said, “I call on each of my colleagues in government in the City of Boston and targeted cities across the nation to affirm that we will not comply or cooperate with this abuse of power from the Trump Administration.”

On Friday night, Mayor Marty Walsh’s responded to questions about the heightened enforcement measures by saying, “Boston is one of the safest cities in America, proving every day that it’s possible to decrease crime while being a city that is welcoming to everyone. What we need – and have needed for a long time – is a sound, rational national immigration policy rooted in both compassion and common sense.”