U.S. Attorney says federal agents won’t be here in same capacity as in Portland

The U.S. Attorney for New Mexico sent a letter to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller providing assurances that the 35 agents that the federal government said would be sent to New Mexico would not be for the type of activities that have taken place in Portland, Oregon. U.S. Attorney John Anderson sent the combative letter to Keller highlighting the city of Albuquerque’s high crime rate numerous times after the mayor, and other elected officials, expressed concern over the scope of the mission from the federal agents. “Under Operation Legend, federal agents will be engaged in the type of crime fighting investigative activities in which federal agents are well-trained and in which they already engage on a daily basis,” Anderson, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote. “As Attorney General [William] Barr took pains to make clear at the White House, the federal agents will be conducting ‘classic crime fighting’ activities that federal agents have carried out around the country for decades, including in Albuquerque.”

Anderson said Operation Legend, the program in which the agents will be sent to Albuquerque, was separate from the federal role in Portland. “Portland is not an Operation Legend City and Operation Legend was not conceived or announced in response to events in Portland,” Anderson wrote. 

Instead, Anderson wrote, Operation Legend is for cities with high violent crime rates and said that the most recent FBI statistics showed Albuquerque had a violent crime rate nearly four times the national average.

Albuquerque wants guidelines on scope of federal agents’ role in city

The City of Albuquerque sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Anderson asking to know the scope of actions by federal law enforcement that President Donald Trump announced will be in Albuquerque as part of Operation Legend. The letter from Deputy City Attorney Samantha M. Hults said that the city welcomes aid from federal agencies in fighting violent crime and gun crime, but expressed concern over statements by Trump and actions by federal agents in Portland and asks for a written commitment that any federal law enforcement agents “conspicuously identify themselves as such, carry and display identifications, and wear uniforms that conspicuously identify the agency for which they work.”

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller echoed the concern in a statement on Friday afternoon. “We always welcome partnerships in constitutional crime fighting that are in step with our community, but we won’t sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send federal agents to attack protesters or round up immigrants,” Keller said. “Unfortunately, look at the President’s own words: he’s ready to incite violence in Democratic cities as a re-election strategy, so Albuquerque must be vigilant to ensure that Operation Legend is actually helpful crime fighting; and not just politics standing in the way of police work that makes us less safe.”

Trump has said that he hopes to target New Mexico in his reelection campaign this year. Hults’ letter said that the city would not welcome arrests or the use of force or arrests on “individuals engaged in First Amendment assemblies;” federal agents not wearing identification or identifying their agency; or the use of unmarked vehicles “to detain and remove individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Federal law enforcement has faced criticism from their handling of protests in Portland, including for the actions described by the city.

Trump to send federal agents to ABQ, as local leaders object

President Donald Trump announced that the White House will send more federal agents into Albuquerque, citing the city’s high violent crime rate. Trump said the deployment of  agents to cities “plagued by violent crime” is part of what he called Operation Legend. The federal government had already sent agents to Kansas City as part of the program. He said state and local officials should accept the federal law enforcement officers. “They should call, they should want it,” Trump said.