A major call has gone out from numerous civil rights and immigration rights organizations seeking to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union and others have publicly expressed concern that immigration agents have profiled and taken into custody individuals who they suspect of not having their papers in order.
Democracy Now reported a viral video showing a group of ICE agents working with the New York City Police Department to detain a protester at a rally demanding justice for George Floyd in New York City last week, and advocates said agents held the man on the ground as they pointed three guns at him and handcuffed and searched him.
He was reportedly released after agents found a military veteran ID on him, showing he is a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent.
“One of the big concerns we have with ICE partnering with the NYPD right now is, you know, they’ve been very opportunistic in terms of policing,” Mizue Aizeki, deputy director at the Immigrant Defense Project, told Democracy Now. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen ICE basically attach themselves or embed themselves to local policing forces all over the country.”
“You know, now almost every fingerprint taken at a police precinct serves as like an automatic alert system to ICE and triggers a request by ICE — could trigger a request by ICE to ask cops and jails to hold someone after they’re released from criminal custody,” Aizeki said. “And in New York state, we’ve seen in the past three years under Trump a 1,700 percent increase in ICE arrests at New York state courthouses.
“And this is why we have a bill — Immigrant Defense Project has a bill right now in front of the New York state Legislature, the Protect Our Courts Act, which would limit ICE’s practice of targeting people in and around courthouses,” he said.
Reports of federal agents being deployed at protests come after an insidious development in Minneapolis early on in the response to the police-related death of George Floyd. Late last month, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew a Predator drone, which is commonly used in overseas military operations, over Minneapolis.
The ACLU sharply criticized that federal action.
Forbes Magazine reported that the use of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, which took off from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, was first noted by Jason Paladino, a reporter at The Project on Government Oversight.
The hexagonal route of the drone using flight path data was later confirmed. It looped around the city several times at a constant altitude of 20,000 feet before it headed back north, according to Forbes.
Andrea Flores, ACLU deputy director of immigration policy, led the denouncing of the presence of ICE and CBP agents at protest rallies.
“ICE and CBP are rogue agencies with sordid histories of abuse, violence, and human rights violations,” Flores said. “Deploying these agents and resources into cities already suffering from over-militarization and law enforcement brutality is a mistake that imperils the lives of even more Black and Brown people.
“Further, CBP shouldn’t be flying drones over American cities, period, especially given the agency’s lack of existing privacy protections and the impact that the use of military technology will have on First Amendment rights,” Flores said. “ICE and CBP should be kept off our streets — not sent into local situations that require restraint and are beyond their purpose.”