The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), the largest immigrant rights organization in California, summarily rejects the Trump administration’s activation of federal agents to police US cities. True democracies do not need a federal police force that answers only to a president in an authoritarian death spiral.
What we saw in Portland over the past several days, with riot-helmeted, unidentified agents in camouflage snatching protesters and wrestling them into unmarked vans, is a degradation of human rights and basic due process.
That the agents turned out to be Border Patrol should ring loud alarms, because this rogue agency can and does arrest people without warrants or reasonable cause.
In announcing this “surge” to Democratic-led cities, US Attorney General William Barr promised federal agents “will be identifiable,” derailing the debate about whether they or DHS shock troops should even be there. It is worth noting that Portland and Chicago are conveniently located in the so-called “enforcement zone,” a 100-mile wide swath the Border Patrol claims as its theatre of operations.
In fact, two-thirds of our population lives in that enforcement zone, which entirely encompasses Maine and Florida.
A federal judge added DHS agents to an existing order against arresting journalists and legal observers at the Portland protests, but it should never have come to that. Federal agents simply have no place in this protests, period.
Trump sending federal agents to US cities under a pretext of fighting crime is a particularly cynical way of destroying due process and canceling free speech. As immigrants who have endured this persecution in our communities for years, we see it for what it is: despotism in action.
Critics on Twitter called Portland a proof-of-concept for fascism. We believe the real proof of concept is how Border Patrol and ICE agents have taken immigrants from our communities with impunity for years. Trump is actually scaling up in Portland and Chicago, setting the stage to now grab citizens and people with legal status without explanation.
If Trump really wanted to help, he would use our tax dollars to send doctors, not police, to help fight the real enemy: COVID-19.
We call on Congress to investigate the use of these agents as a de facto federal police force sent without invitation to cities already taxed with fighting rising COVID-19 infections. Congress must use the power of the purse to restrict these invasions. And Americans must remind the President he is not a dictator or a king, but a steward of a Constitution which protects and defends all.
Angelica Salas is the executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).