Skip to content Skip to footer

Federal agents surge Chicago: Why the city is pushing back

Federal agents surged through Chicago this past weekend, even after Mayor Lori Lightfoot was adamant about not letting feds into the city.

It started with Portland. Now President Trump has announced his plan to send federal agents to a variety of cities across the country, many of which happen to be run by Democratic elected officials.

The next place on his list: the Windy City itself, Chicago. While Trump claims these agents will be there to deal with violence in the city, which Chicago has had a long history of dealing with, the lack of clarity in his plans is concerning to many. 

Elected officials have criticized Trump for this move, especially considering the events still occurring in Portland. These include unidentified federal agents forcing protesters into unmarked vehicles, injuring protesters and the press with impact munitions, and dispersing them with tear gas.

There are federal agents either in, or on their way to Chicago, Portland, and other cities around the country. After Lightfoot claimed she would not allow federal agents into her city, she capitulated to Trump and let 200 in.

We are staring at an infringement on people’s constitutional rights, an increasingly-authoritarian leader and his lackeys, and a defining time in this country’s history.


View this post on Instagram


BE CAREFUL, CHICAGO • The @chicagotribune has learned that @dhsgov (headed by @dhswolf, an architect of @realdonaldtrump’s #familyseparation policy) is planning to send 150 #federalagents to #Chicago this week, following a request for federal assistance from Chicago #police’s largest union. More from the Trib: 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. 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. 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. On Saturday, the president of the Chicago police’s largest union had sent Trump a letter asking for help from the federal government in putting a lid on crime in the city. “I am certain you are aware of the chaos currently affecting our city on a regular basis now,” John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, wrote in a letter that was posted on the FOP’s Facebook page. “I am writing to formally ask you for help from the federal government. Mayor #Lightfoot has proved to be a complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here. #blacklivesmatter #portland #abolishice #lorilightfoot #chicagoprotest

A post shared by Jack (@chicagoladd) on

Chicago officials and others criticize the plan

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as well as Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are among some of the critics of Trump’s plan to deploy federal agents to the city. These agents include Department of Homeland Security officers as well as ICE troops.

Duckworth says the presence of federal agents will endanger people’s constitutional rights. Incidents in Portland such as agents forcing people into unmarked vehicles, as well as attacking press and innocent protesters, appear to support her claims.

Lightfoot meanwhile is also committed to not having a repeat of the events of Portland, and is calling for the community to come forward and contribute to peace instead, rather than federal forces.

Some city officials however have criticized Lightfoot in the past for not being able to deal with the city’s violence. One recent example comes from Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara Jr. 

In an open letter on Facebook formally requesting aid from the federal government, Cantanzara called Lightfoot, “A complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here.”

Cantanzara also stated, “I am certain you are aware of the chaos affecting our city on a regular basis now. “I would be willing to sit down anytime and discuss ideas about how we can bring civility back to the streets of Chicago.”

President Trump claimed federal agents are needed to quell violence in various cities. In a recent statement in the Oval Office, Trump claimed, “We’re not going to let this happen to our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”

Furthermore, he also expressed his intentions to send federal agents to a variety of other cities such as Kansas City, Missouri; New York; and various others. Many of these cities are run by Democratic officials, which Trump also noted in his statement.

Mayor Lightfoot is not the only one who has struggled to reduce Chicago’s crime rate. According to crime statistics from the Chicago Police department, there’s been at least a 47 percent increase in shootings between the past year up until July 20. There has also been a 51 percent increase in murder rates since 2019.

This unfortunately is hardly anything new. In fact, shootings, homicides, and gang-related violence have long been issues in Chicago.

A history of violence

Even before the recent racial justice protests, violence and homicides in Chicago unfortunately are extremely commonplace. These acts typically happen in the city’s south and west sides, but they are capable of happening anywhere.

Just recently on July 21, 15 people mourning outside a funeral home were injured in a drive-by shooting in Auburn Gresham. Over the Fourth of July weekend, 16 people were killed and at least 69 were injured in shootings across the city. Two of the deceased victims were children.

Solving these problems is extremely difficult, but bringing in federal troops will just escalate things further if the events in Portland are any indication.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Senator Tammy Duckworth have brought up other solutions for reducing the violence in Chicago. These include reaching out to the local community, passing gun control policies, and going after gun trafficking.

In an interview with CNN, Duckworth said:

“If you want to do something about gun violence, call Mitch McConnell. Let’s have a vote on the floor today on universal background checks and on straw purchases of guns. Let’s go after gun trafficking.”

A key factor to note is that many of the neighborhoods where crime is commonplace in Chicago primarily consist of people of color. One particular contributing factor to the violence is the lack of infrastructure in these communities.

Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research Daniel Webster told NBC News:

“People who get involved in violence, many of them are financially insecure, housing insecure, food insecure — their whole life is insecure.”

Many communities in Chicago lack stable infrastructure in things like education, housing, and mental health.

These factors in turn contribute to crimes such as shootings, since residents lack the proper support structures to effectively help their community. The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to improve this either.

Black Community Collaborative co-founder Natasha Dunn told ABC 7:

“We believe in order to stop the violence in our community, everything has to come together… It’s not silos. It’s not education here, it’s not economics over there, it’s not crime there. Everybody needs to be held accountable.”

What comes next?

Even if the federal agents in Chicago aren’t intended to deal with the vandalism of federal landmarks like in Portland, their presence in the city is still a cause of concern.

Local leaders and federal officials continue to criticize the government’s decision to send agents into cities, and the federal government is still defending its current stance. But if Lori Lightfoot allows federal agents into the city, to terrorize and only exacerbate the conflict, what kind of precedent does that set for other U.S. cities?

Not only is there an increasing presence of federal agents, but there’s also a widening rift between government officials at all levels. If this continues, who knows what violence will occur not just in Chicago, but in the entire country.