COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday called plans for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to send federal agents to Chicago “a wrongheaded move on the part of Donald Trump, on the part of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Pritzker said he’s called the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security about the matter, but was told “he couldn’t possibly get back to me until about 48 hours from now.”
DHS is slated to send about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents to Chicago to help local law enforcement deal with a spike in crime, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
The agents, which are generally used to conduct investigations into human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling, were expected to stay in Chicago at least two months, according to the official. It's not clear exactly how they will back up local law enforcement or when they will arrive, but they will make arrests for federal crimes, not local ones.
In a tweet Sunday, Trump blamed local leaders for violence in Chicago and other cities.
“The Radical Left Democrats, who totally control Biden, will destroy our Country as we know it. Unimaginably bad things would happen to America,” Trump tweeted, referring to his likely Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. “Look at Portland, where the pols are just fine with 50 days of anarchy. We sent in help. Look at New York, Chicago, Philadelphia. NO!”
The move is Trump's latest effort to use an agency — created after the Sept. 11 attacks to protect the country from terrorists threats — to supplement local law enforcement in ways that have alarmed critics. Trump has already deployed agents to Portland under the mantle of protecting federal buildings from protesters, drawing intense criticism from local leaders who say they have only exacerbated tensions.
Chicago has seen 414 homicides this year, compared with 275 during the same period last year, and a spate of shootings in recent weeks as cities around the country have seen an uptick in violence. The president of the local police officer’s union wrote Trump a letter asking “for help from the federal government” to help combat gun violence.
Pritzker at an unrelated news conference Tuesday morning in Collinsville called bringing in federal personnel "ridiculous."
“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from coming, and if they do come we’re going to do everything we can from a legal perspective to get them out," he said.
The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing -- and what their limits would be -- had not been made public.
The Radical Left Democrats, who totally control Biden, will destroy our Country as we know it. Unimaginably bad things would happen to America. Look at Portland, where the pols are just fine with 50 days of anarchy. We sent in help. Look at New York, Chicago, Philadelphia. NO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2020
DHS in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the Department of Justice indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.
One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters.
Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland, Oregon, has raised alarm in many circles. Chicago, too, has dealt with protests that have led to injuries in recent days.
At an unrelated news conference Monday morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has great concerns about the general possibility of Trump sending feds to Chicago based on what has happened in Portland.
If Trump wants to help, she said, he could boost federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives resources and fully fund prosecutors.
Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, on Tuesday sent Trump a letter asking that he reconsider.
“With the right leadership, federal law enforcement can serve as valuable partners in supporting local efforts and helping reduce violence in American communities, rather than contravening local efforts and exacerbating tensions. It’s not too late for you to demonstrate such leadership,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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