The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.
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 had not been made public.
One city official said the city was aware of the plan but not any specifics. The Chicago Police Department had no immediate comment.
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.
It was unclear where all the agents would be coming from, though many were expected to be from agencies operating in the Chicago area. Questions remained about the chain of command they would fall under.
Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland 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 President Donald Trump sending feds to Chicago based on what has happened in Portland.
If Trump wants to help, she said, he could boost federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives resources and fully fund prosecutors.
“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully,” Lightfoot said.
Word of the Chicago plan comes as Trump last week made a vague announcement on how his administration intended to deal with crime in big U.S. cities like Chicago. The Republican president, who has been very critical of Chicago’s violence throughout his term, has been pushing a “law and order” message as he enters the final stretch of his reelection campaign against his presumptive Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
In a briefing with reporters, Trump said he would have more to say this week, with the attorney general, the FBI and others concerning our cities, because the “left-wing group of people that are running our cities are not doing the job that they’re supposed to be doing, and it’s not a very tough job to do if they knew what they were doing.”
Trump alluded to the same issue in an interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, calling Chicago and New York “stupidly run” cities, blaming the violent crime there on Lightfoot and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
According to a short clip of the sit-down interview released Friday, Wallace pushed back on Trump’s comments, saying “liberal Democrats have been running cities in this country for decades,” before the president interrupted with “poorly.”
Without offering specifics, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News over the weekend that Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf would roll out a plan this week about tamping down on crime in various U.S. cities.
“Some of the unrest that we saw, even in the last month or so, but particularly last night and in the week leading up to it in Portland, is just not acceptable when you look at communities not being safe and not upholding the rule of law,” said Meadows. “So, Attorney General Barr is weighing in on that with (DHS) Secretary Wolf and you’ll see something rolled out this week as we start to go in and make sure that the communities whether it’s Chicago, or Portland, or Milwaukee, or some place across the heartland of the country, we need to make sure their communities are safe.”
Lightfoot pushed back last week on criticism from Trump’s press secretary saying their administration is trying to put the blame on Democrats for political purposes to “score points with their base.”
So far in 2020, Chicago has experienced one of its most violent years in recent memory, especially since late May with the fallout over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. Through July 12, homicides in Chicago were up 48% with 385, compared to 260 at the same time last year, official CPD statistics show. Shootings were also up by 46%
During a 28-day period through July 12, 116 people were slain in Chicago, the statistics show. That’s up from 41 during the same period in 2019.
In addition to Portland, Homeland Security agents have already been sent to other cities, including Washington D.C. and Seattle.
Oregon’s attorney general sued Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday, alleging in a complaint that federal agents in Portland, which has continued to see intense unrest since Floyd’s death on May 25, unjustifiably grabbed people from the city’s streets.