As concerns flare over federal law enforcement agents’ actions in Portland in recent days, the feds are reportedly planning to deploy new federal force — this time in Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune broke the news Monday that 150 ICE agents were expected to “assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts,” in the newspaper’s words.
The agents will come from Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigations arm, the paper said. Other HSI agents are currently policing protesters in Portland alongside the Federal Protective Service, tactical Customs and Border Protection agents, and others.
The reports don’t offer much detail on the nature of the HSI agents’ movement, and ICE did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. Chicago has experienced a spike in gun violence over the past month, and demonstrators and police officers clashed at protest Friday against a statue of Christopher Columbus in the city.
But Trump long ago made Chicago — and particularly, street crime in the city — a political focus of his. Just a few months into his presidency, he tweeted about sending federal “help” to the city.
Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
And at a White House event last week, the President mused, “Can you imagine if the country was run like Chicago and like New York and like some of these other Democrat super radical left cities are run? You wouldn’t have a country for very long.”
During a press conference Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was a “derelict mayor” who should ask for federal assistance. McEnany described a letter from Trump to Lightfoot ordering the mayor to “secure your city.”
Lightfoot later called the letter “a litany of nonsense written by some political flak.” And in a press conference Monday, the mayor added, “We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully.”
The reports Monday follow a request from Chicago’s top police union official to Trump. In a letter he shared on Facebook, local Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara “formally” asked for the federal government’s help.
“Mayor Lightfoot has proved to be a complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here,” Catanzara wrote.
Also on Monday, Trump said he was considering expanding the federal law enforcement footprint to cities beyond Portland.
“We’re not going to let New York, and Chicago, and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore — and Oakland is a mess,” he said. “We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
“More federal law enforcement to some of these cities?” a reporter asked.
“We’re going to have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you,” Trump responded. “In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job.”
#BREAKING: President Trump says he may send "more federal law enforcement" to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland, and other cities to deal with unrest: "In Portland they’ve done a fantastic job." pic.twitter.com/Pe6aDv6AVt
— The Hill (@thehill) July 20, 2020
Elected officials across Oregon and much of the rest of the country have slammed the administration for the actions of federal law enforcement in Portland in recent days, and questioned their legality.
Under the supposed authority of a presidential executive order last month aimed at “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence,” federal law enforcement officers from several agencies have descended on the city, filling the streets with tear gas and at times detaining protesters in unmarked vehicles.