March 6, 2020
Some 3,000 years ago, rumor has it, a statue of Pallas Athena was stolen from Troy by Diomedes and Odysseus during their famed journey. The statue was thought to have magical qualities that offered protection to Troy. Those powers transferred to Rome, where the power of myth carried this statue from the literary world of the Odyssey that of the Aeneid. Eventually, the statue was stolen again and buried under a column in Constantinople. The statue was called the "Palladium," and now Donald Trump has launched a massive law enforcement operation to find it.
Just messing with you. But in a sign that perhaps too many people at the Department of Homeland Security play Dungeons and Dragons on the weekend, the administration is launching Operation Palladium.
So, what is Operation Palladium? It is a massive effort by the administration to “flood the streets” with agents to arrest as many unauthorized immigrants as possible between now and the 2020 electio (well, technically, December).
Two weeks ago we talked about reports that the administration was gearing up to send Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTACs) into sanctuary cities to support ICE in enforcement operations. This was the opening salvo of Operation Palladium.
The details of the operation were reported by the New York Times this week. Operation Palladium apparently includes a massive surveillance effort with agents camped out at the homes and workplaces of people with removal orders residing within sanctuary cities.
It is hard to know what will happen exactly beyond the “leaked” memo that describes the operation. The announcement about BORTAC units descending on cities around the country did not seem to materialize in actual mammoth operations; ICE arrests hundreds of people every day already.
Whatever operation ultimately does take place, a few take-aways:
First, the administration’s efforts to criticize, isolate and target cities and states that have passed laws restricting cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs enforcement is first and foremost a political ploy. Operation Palladium is as much an electoral strategy as a law enforcement one, and I am sure the administration is currently glowing in the light of liberal indignation at the contents of the “leak” (or at least Fox News coverage of the same).
Second, the main strategy here is to convince voters that Democratic mayors care more about immigrants than U.S. citizens, and thus would gladly sacrifice the safety of their own communities for the possibility that these immigrants could vote for them at some point in the future when they become citizens; or something like that. It makes no sense, but logic is beside the point. This is Nixon-southern-strategy-style political marketing, or fact-free race-baiting, warmed over for the social media era.
Third, the consequences of this mostly rhetorical game are potentially deadly. Increased enforcement operations will likely occur. Although the actual scale is hard to guess, the administration certainly has a desire to convince people they are doing more. In doing so, they legitimate a frightening militarization of federal law enforcement operations taking place in an oppositional stance to local law enforcement. Long-term, this precedent, not simply the scale of the operations, is a game changer if it stands.
Finally, with this Congress there are certainly challenges. But you can do stuff.
Demand that your member of Congress #DefundHate! Which means that they state publicly that they oppose Trump’s budget requests to increase funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, given the stated intent to use these funds to go to war against our own cities. And to absolutely deny the administration its budget request for a daily average of 60,000 detention beds to incarcerate immigrants.
Ask your member of Congress to support the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act! (H.R. 2415) There are now 140 co-sponsors. Is your member there? If not make a call!
Ask your member of Congress to support the New Way Forward Act! (H.R. 5383) This seeks to remove criminal penalties against immigrants put in place in the mid-1990s during the Clinton era that led to mandatory detention. It also seeks to reduce detention overall.
Connect with immigrant justice coalitions in your area - especially those operating Rapid Response Networks that monitor ICE enforcement operations. If you are not able to locate one, be in touch, we can help!!