Sunday, February 16, 2020

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

By Emma Goldman
Immigration Correspondent

From time to time we have heard that some of you think that the title of this Department is a tad hyperbolic or, as proud Brandeis grad Marty Peretz [Louise, please check if Marty is alive or dead.  Thanks. – Ed.] once said of the late great Village Voice, “reeks of stale menace.”  To which we say: meet Strike Force BORTAC, coming soon to a Democratic city near you.

What's BORTAC?  It's the heavily armed branch of US Customs and Border Protection, used to conduct border operations against presumably equally heavily armed adversaries like Mexican drug cartels.  Here they are in action:

Scary stuff, no?  And why is this paramilitary force being redeployed from the southern border to Boston, Massachusetts?  We'll start with the Trumpublican party line as reported in The New York Times (and other places):

The Trump administration is deploying law enforcement tactical units from the southern border as part of a supercharged arrest operation in sanctuary cities across the country, an escalation in the president’s battle against localities that refuse to participate in immigration enforcement. 

The specially trained officers are being sent to cities including Chicago and New York to boost the enforcement power of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to two officials who are familiar with the secret operation. Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, and Newark. 

The move reflects President Trump’s persistence in cracking down on sanctuary cities, localities that have refused to cooperate in handing over immigrants targeted for deportation to federal authorities. . . . . .

Among the agents being deployed to sanctuary cities are members of the elite tactical unit known as BORTAC, which acts essentially as the SWAT team of the Border Patrol. With additional gear such as stun grenades and enhanced Special Forces-type training, including sniper certification, the officers typically conduct high-risk operations targeting individuals who are known to be violent, many of them with extensive criminal records. 

So who's the enemy here?  Is it those ferocious “criminal aliens” stalking the streets of our cities, making life difficult for dirty dishes in restaurants, crabgrass on suburban lawns, and salt stains on mag wheels, to name three common targets of their nefarious activities?  Or is it Democratic cities and states who have had the nerve to oppose impressment into the Trumpublican war on the undocumented and their families (who often by the way are U.S. citizens)?

It appears to be the latter, as the corrupt drug-addled Othello of Mar-a-Lago continues to rage against those who dare oppose him, by, for example, not keeping state prisoners locked up without charges just because an ICE agent hands the jailer a piece of paper asking them do so.  Our old classmate Ralph Gants '76 (and his colleagues on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court) had to point out that Massachusetts cannot in fact lock someone up indefinitely just because another government asks them to.

This and other sullen acts of defiance have sent President Pussy Ass Bitch and his white supremacists Iagos into conniptions, leading to the dramatic spectacle of heavily armed CBP SWAT teams deployed into the streets of Brockton, Mass. to – well, we'll get to that in a moment.

The other motivation for this useless display of force seems to be to avoid repeats of disasters like the one that went down in Brooklyn last week, when ICE agents tried to take an alien into civil custody but were met with an entirely expectable show of defiance on the part of his friends and family.

Instead of retreating to snatch another body, or the same one another day,

As the officers, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, tried to detain him, Mr. AvendaƱo was shot with a stun gun. One officer then fired a gun at a second man, the son of Mr. AvendaƱo’s longtime girlfriend, with the bullet piercing the young man’s cheek.

That went well! Of course, if the shooter had been a Latino and the victim the Old Bill, the story might have read “shot the officer in the head,” not the cheek, but we'll leave that for another day.

The ICE agent had no choice but to use lethal force against an unarmed civilian because the dangerous criminal alien they were bravely seeking to apprehend had been, according to paragraph 97 of the New York Times report, “arrested earlier in the week after being stopped for failing to signal a turn, driving without a license and improper license plates, according to court records.”

This sort of heinous crime may be just another day in Brooklyn, but can you imagine what might happen in Boston if miscreants thought they could get away with brazenly and wantonly making a turn without signaling?  It would be the end of life in the Hub as we know it, unless of course Boston drivers were permitted to administer vigilante justice: six honks and a finger.

Perhaps the body snatchers honestly believe that deploying heavily armed paramilitary units onto the streets of our cities might prevent future efforts to save our citizens from the plague of unsignaled left turns without inflicting life-endangering injuries on their friends and relatives.  Perhaps they believe that the existing force of 7,700 kidnappers is really insufficient.

Or perhaps the whole thing is no more than bigotry as performance art, because it turns out that the BORTAC team can't in fact do, to use the technical legal term for enforcement jurisdiction, jack shit:

Even with the added show of force from BORTAC, agents will be limited in their abilities compared to the police or sheriff’s deputies. Unlike operations on the border, where BORTAC agents may engage in armed confrontations with drug-smuggling suspects using armored vehicles, immigration agents in cities are enforcing civil infractions rather than criminal ones. They are not allowed to forcibly enter properties in order to make arrests, and the presence of BORTAC agents, while helpful in boosting the number of agents on the ground, may prove most useful for the visual message it sends.

There's a fun fact concealed in all this send-in-the-Marines crap: US Customs and Border Enforcement has no jurisdiction outside the, wait for it, U.S border (with the exception of a self-proclaimed zone extending 100 miles from a U.S. land border).  That means that the BORTAC teams with their shiny tanks and machine guns can't do anything except stand around and look tough, just like the clowns who parade around state capitols in war-surplus combat gear and assault weapons to protest efforts to keep high powered weapons out of the hands of immature idiots.

Which leads to a possible avenue to protect anyone who speaks Spanish and has undocumented friends or family from being shot full of holes by a trigger-happy hit squad.  If these federal agents do not have any federal authority to do what they are doing, then they are not acting within the scope of U.S. Government authority.  Therefore, their actions can be limited by state and local peace forces, who have their own tanks and assault weapons.

What about the Supremacy Clause, which stands for the proposition that states cannot restrict the acts of federal officers acting within the scope of their authority?  Does it cover actions of federal officers acting outside the scope of their authority?  Like robbing banks, shooting civilians, or making a left turn without signaling?  We may yet find out.

Bostonians have had experience with this sort of thing.  When the Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which granted federal power to snatchers of runaway slaves, the good citizens of our town did not acquiesce in the return of criminal aliens to their enslavers.  In fact, they were quite ornery about the whole sordid mess.  In 1854, when an enslaver named Charles Suttle came to Boston to retrieve his fugitive slave Anthony Burns

Coming soon to a Hub near you.
under the pretext of being charged for failing to signal for a left turn [Surely, robbery? – Ed], Burns was arrested. Boston abolitionists, vehemently opposed to the Slave Act, rallied to aid Burns, who was being held on the third floor of the federal courthouse. . . .

The crowd outside the courthouse quickly grew from several hundred to about two thousand. A small group of blacks, led by white minister Thomas Wentworth Higginson, charged the building with a beam they used as a battering ram. They succeeded in creating a small opening, but only for a moment. A shot was fired. A deputy shouted out that he had been stabbed, then died several minutes later. Higginson and a black man gained entry, but were beaten back outside by six to eight deputies.

Boston inhabitants had successfully aided re-captured slaves in the past. In 1851, a group of black men snatched a fugitive slave from a courtroom and sent her to Canada. Anthony Burns would not share the same fate. Determined to see the Fugitive Slave Act enforced, President Franklin Pierce ordered marines and artillery to assist the guards watching over Burns. Pierce also ordered a federal ship to return Burns to Virginia after the trial.

Burns was convicted of being a fugitive slave on June 2, 1854. That same day, an estimated 50,000 lined the streets of Boston, watching Anthony Burns walk in shackles toward the waterfront and the waiting ship. 

Burns's freedom was eventually purchased by public subscription, but besieging the courthouse seems to have had a cooling effect on the ardor of persecutors deputized under the Fugitive Slave Act.  And those thugs were in fact acting under federal law.  You can't say the same thing about the Trumpublican SWAT teams deploying their tanks and machine guns in the streets of Everett and Brownsville to perform for the entertainment of a corrupt Russian-owned bigot and his legions of white enablers.  The only question is whether state governors and local officials will allow the the star-spangled hate fest to proceed.  Maybe someone should tell Boston Mayor Marty Walsh that the CBP strike force won't hire union stagehands.

UPDATE, February 17:  Speaking of the majesty of federal law enforcement, here's The New York Times's 1619 Project on the fate of Mr. Anthony Burns:

Next to the I-95 highway in Richmond, there’s a fenced-in area that for about 20 years starting in the mid-1840s was home to a compound owned by the slave trader Robert Lumpkin. Called Lumpkin’s Jail, it included a pen to hold enslaved people — many of them fugitives — before they were sold in auctions and private sales on the property. The site, one of the few in the country that are marked, is part of a self-guided slavery tour in Richmond. . . .

One person held at Lumpkin’s Jail was Anthony Burns, an enslaved person in Richmond who stowed away on a ship in 1854, escaping to Boston. When he was captured shortly after, thousands of local abolitionists tried to prevent him from being re-enslaved, but the courts ordered Burns returned to Virginia, where he was soon jailed in a small cell in Lumpkin’s Jail, painfully manacled much of the time. “The grip of the irons impeded the circulation of his blood, made hot and rapid by the stifling atmosphere, and caused his feet to swell enormously,” reports his biographer, Charles Emery Stevens. Burns was kept in this jail for four months until he was purchased there by a plantation owner from North Carolina. But he had not been forgotten by a black congregation and other abolitionists in Boston, who purchased his freedom. He went on to study at Oberlin College and spent his final years in Canada as a Baptist preacher.

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