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In a first, ICE agents are poised to respond to potential Election Day unrest

The officers are among other Department of Homeland Security agents who have been told to be ready to deploy to protect federal property in Washington.
Federal officers use chemical irritants and projectiles to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on July 24, 2020.Noah Berger / AP

Department of Homeland Security agents, including those from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, have been told to be ready to protect federal property in Washington if there is unrest on or after Election Day, two DHS officials told NBC News.

The agency is regularly tasked with providing additional security around the nation’s capital on inauguration days, but has never stepped in to quell unrest on Election Day. The unprecedented step is in response to nationwide protests and attacks on federal property seen this year, the officials said.

ICE, CBP, and the Federal Protective Service are part of the "Protecting American Communities Task Force," established in June through an executive order by President Trump in response to "anarchists and left-wing extremists" who he said sought to damage monuments and federal buildings.

The task force was met with backlash in Portland this summer, where agents protecting the federal courthouse clashed with protesters for more than two months.

Asked about plans to secure D.C. around the election, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said, "As a law enforcement component under the DHS Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), CBP will continue to provide support, as requested, to the Federal Protective Service to protect Federal facilities and property if needed and to local law enforcement partners if requested."

An ICE official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that ICE agents were ready to secure federal buildings and work with local police.

Chase Jennings, a DHS spokesperson, said the agency is "fully prepared regarding election night safety and security."

"To be clear, the Department of Homeland Security has limited authorities regarding physical security—our jurisdiction covers only federal property," Jennings added.