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Federal Agents Coming To ‘Help Manage’ Violent Crime, But Lightfoot Insists Secret Police Action Won’t Happen

"We do not welcome dictatorship," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "And we do not welcome unconstitutional arrests and detainment of our residents. That is something I will not tolerate."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Trump administration is sending federal agents to Chicago — but they’ll work with agencies here, unlike the shadowy way they’ve operated in Portland, Oregon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.

There have been multiple reports the Department of Homeland Security is planning to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago That’s roused concern throughout the city as federal agents have conducted secretive operations in Portland, Oregon, with agents driving in unmarked cars and grabbing protesters off the streets to detain them without explanation.

Lightfoot sent a letter to the administration Monday, warning similar actions in Chicago would “spell disaster.”

But what’s happening in Portland does not appear to be the plan for Chicago, Lightfoot said during a Tuesday press conference. Instead, the mayor said, the federal government is providing “additional resources” to local branches of its agencies, like the FBI, to “help manage” crime.

“What I understand at this point … is the Trump administration’s not going to foolishly deploy unnamed agents to the city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said. “As I understand it, what we will be getting are some additional resources in the FBI, the DEA and the ATF. … What we will receive is resources that are going to plug into the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime in our city.”

Unlike in Portland, the Chicago-area U.S. attorney, John Lausch, is “in the loop” and will help manage the additional resources, Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said she’s been in conversation with Lausch about the federal agents that are coming and she has a “tremendous amount of confidence” in him — but she won’t put anything past the Trump administration.

That’s “why we’ll continue to be diligent and why we’ll continue to be ready,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor criticized the federal government’s actions in the Oregon city, saying the roundup and detainment of protesters was “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic.”

“We do not welcome dictatorship,” Lightfoot said. “And we do not welcome unconstitutional arrests and detainment of our residents. That is something I will not tolerate.”

The city would fight the deployment of federal secret agents, Lightfoot said, adding that were they to come to Chicago, the city will “rush into court.”

“… At least at this point, we don’t see a Portland-style deployment coming to Chicago,” Lightfoot said. “Now, if that changes … we will not hesitate to use every tool at our disposal.”

People who do see suspicious activity should call 911 or contact the Mayor’s Office and their local aldermen to let them know “something is amiss,” Lightfoot said.

“We need everybody in our city to be the eyes and ears on this thing because we are not going to allow democracy to be hijacked by the federal government,” Lightfoot said. “That is not happening in Chicago.”

In Lightfoot’s Monday night, four-page letter to President Donald Trump, she said the city did not need help from “secret, federal agents.”

“What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago,” Lightfoot wrote. “Any other form of militarized assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster.”

Read the letter:

The Tribune reported Trump could send dozens of Department of Homeland Security agents to Chicago as soon as this week. The Chicago Sun-Times also reported on the president’s plans to deploy federal forces to the city.

A New York Times reporter, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, tweeted he confirmed those reports and was told 150 agents will be sent to Chicago for at least 60 days, with more federal agents “expected to be deployed.”

For much of his presidency, Trump has made unrealized pledges to deploy federal troops to the city, promising crackdowns on daily crime and mass arrests of undocumented immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said in an emailed statement the organization “will hold the Trump administration and any such federal forces accountable for unconstitutional actions.”

“This is a fight to save our democracy against a reckless administration bent on terrorizing our communities and endangering lives,” according to the ACLU’s statement.

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