Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez joined a growing call from Senators for the federal government to explain the unmarked law enforcement presence in Portland, OR.
A pair of letters were written to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), asking them to detail their involvement in the law enforcement activities. Acting Secretary of DHS Chad F. Wolf was addressed in both letters.
The letters referred to reports of unmarked federal law enforcement officers grabbing individuals off the street while driving around areas of Portland, a report of a Navy veteran being beaten with a baton, and pregnant mothers being tear-gassed.
The letters focused on claims from President Donald Trump indicating federal law enforcement activities in Portland were a harbinger of things to come. The President named New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, saying they were “run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats,” an indicator of the comments partisan nature.
In the letter sent to Acting Director of ICE Matthew T. Albence and Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark A. Morgan, the Senators pointed out prior communications were not returned from the departments.
The letter asked for the departments to respond by July 28, providing information on equipment used, how many individuals had been maintained, documentation processes for arrests, and complaints received regarding deployments.
Addressing the Department of Justice
In a letter addressed to Wolf and Attorney General William P. Barr, the coalition argued the citizens of Portland, who had peacefully protested for more than 50 days, were exercising their First Amendment rights, and reports of abuse by law enforcement were concerning.
Additionally, the senators questioned the deployment of federal officers using military-style woodland camouflage “with no apparent tactical purpose on the streets of an American city” and the military-style tactical gear unsuited for riot control.
Looking to the Future
“The reported federal law enforcement actions in Portland raise serious concerns in light of your statements implying that such actions will be replicated across the nation,” the senators wrote.
The letter asked for detail on “a spate of federal agents are expected to be deployed in the streets of Chicago soon, including at least 150 agents from the Department of Homeland Security,” and more detail on reports indicating federal agents would be sent to Albuquerque, NM; Kansas City, MO; and Milwaukee, WI.