By 2020, the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) had been established to, among other tasks, provide particularly extreme responses to domestic as well as foreign uprisings (USCBP 2006, 2014, 2018). BORTAC is truly a global domestic law enforcement agency, operating in 28 countries (they were willing to publicly disclose as of 2006; USCBP (2006)), providing a wide range of services (USCBP 2014, Miller 2019). BORTAC’s specific genesis was focused on riots in federal immigration detention centers (USCBP 2006, 2014), noteworthy given the use of thermal foggers in the United States carceral system.
Border Patrol agents from the El Paso unit specifically were deployed to police protests in El Paso in addition to being sent to Portland and other cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico (Borunda 2020).
9.2.1 Portland OR
The thermal fogger made a very visible return to the public sphere in July of 2020, when US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers brought a bright-green version to Portland, OR during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests (PB2020 Team 2021). Since then, the fogger has been deployed three additional times by CBP in Portland, all at the property Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rents on the South Waterfront.
18.104.22.168 July 29 2020
At the beginning of July 2020, then-president Trump deployed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents to “protect” federal property in Portland, OR (Trump 2020, USDHS 2020, Flanigan 2020). During the final days of the visible presence and response of federal agents in Summer 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled their thermal fogger (Sal 2020a), which has been identified through photos as an IGEBA TF35 thermal fogger from Nixalite of America Inc. This machine is designed and marketed for bird control, and while “training tool for military/law enforcement” is listed among its uses (Nixalite 2009b), its safety requirements explicitly state:
“19. Do not fog directly against persons…During operation keep distance of minimum [10 ft].” - (Nixalite 2009a)
22.214.171.124 Abolish ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rental Property
While the thermal fogger hasn’t been deployed at the federal Courthouse in downtown Portland since July 29 2020, it has been used repeatedly by Department of Homeland Security agents at the private property US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rents to use as a holding center for deportees in the South Waterfront neighborhood (Simonis 2021) – the same building that saw the weeks-long Ocuppy ICE protests in 2018 (Dubois 2018).
The first of such deployments occurred during the fall of 2020.
Along with cities across the country, Portland hosted many events on October 17th focused around the racial and gender justice (Sal 2020b). In the evening, there was a gathering at Willamette Park in the Southwest part of the city, where organizers passed out balloons detailing harrowing experiences of migrants and immigrants detained by ICE (Sal 2020b). After marching to the ICE rental property, individuals tied the balloons to the gate to the parking garage, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers deployed massive amounts of chemical weapons, including via a thermal fogger, throughout the neighborhood (Sal 2020b).
126.96.36.199 Inaugration 2021
The same fogger (or at least the same model) was again brought out at the ICE rental property on January 20th 2021 during the Inauguration Day (“J20”) Abolish ICE protests in response to an individual spray painting a piece of plywood tacked outside the building (Sal 2021a). The fogged up and down multiple blocks, with visible plumes entering units in the adjacent apartment complexes and covering the playground of an adjacent public school (Simonis 2021, Sal 2021a).
That weekend, CBP deployed the fogger again during Abolish ICE protests, this time gassing even more of the neighborhood, including the local public school and veterans-preference housing (Simonis 2021, Sal 2021b).