US ICE and CBP immigration officers ordered to leave Portland

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

There have been allegations that ICE and CBP have used too much force in Portland, Oregon.   It also seems very odd that immigration agencies should be used to deal with Black Lives Matters demonstrators.  Using ICE and CBP is yet another thing that minority groups will be angry about. Organisations headed by people who are immigration hardliners such as Mark A. Morgan director of CBP and Matthew Albence head of ICE are perhaps not best placed to deal with BLM demonstrators.  Albence has said in the past that immigration detention is “more like summer camp”.  This week Matt Albence said that he is retiring as Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  If Biden wins in the Presidential elections in November, presumably it is quite likely he would have been sacked anyway. 

Donald Trump is probably also concerned about his re-election prospects.  His prospects of being re-elected in November 2020 has been much reduced due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the poor state of the economy.  He perhaps thought that if he is seen to be acting in a tough and aggressive way towards demonstrators this may encourage support among his “base”.   However, this time he has upset so many people that he may have a hard time being re-elected.  There is even a Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT) group.

After weeks of outrage in Portland, Oregon Donald Trump has ordered US immigration officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to withdraw from the city. ICE and CBP agents have been aggressively policing Black Lives Matter protests in Portland for weeks, sparking anger and further rallies.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced an agreement with Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, to devise a plan to end the violence in Portland targeting federal buildings and law enforcement agents.

Ms Brown said: “Officers from US Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have acted as an occupying force and brought violence. Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians’ right to free speech and keep the peace.”

“Let’s centre the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability. It's time for bold action to reform police practices,” Brown added.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has different ideas

Despite Ms Brown’s comments, the DHS has seemingly different ideas. Acting secretary for the DHS, immigration hardliner Chad Wolf, said that the agency will ‘continue to re-evaluate Portland’s efforts before US immigration officers vacate the city.’

Wolf said: “The agency will continue to maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure.”

The agreement comes following two weeks of protests and increased violence against BLM demonstrators who have been hit with impact rounds, tear gas, batons, flash bang grenades and other weapons. In retaliation, US immigration agents have been bombarded with cans, paint and bottles among other items as crowds demanded that they leave the city.

Black Lives Matter Daily Protests in Portland

For approximately two months, Portland has been an epicenter for daily protests against the killing of black Americans, much of which has been sparked by the death of George Floyd. The BLM movement has reportedly inspired international movements against police brutality and systemic racism.

Amid escalating violence in Portland, Trump issued an executive order deploying US immigration agents to protect statues and federal property. However, reports of serious injuries among demonstrators quickly emerged.

Critics have described Portland as ‘Trump’s political theatre of war’ as his campaign prioritizes ‘law and order’ rhetoric.

The US President has branded protesters ‘violent mobs’, though the majority or protestors - including the so-called ‘wall of mothers’, US Army veterans and nurses who have linked arms to defend demonstrators from federal attacks – have remained peaceful for the most part. Trump had recently pledged to increase federal support in the city.

Trump says City was secured

Hours before an agreement was reached by the DHS and Oregon’s Governor, Trump had said that US immigration agents would not be leaving “until Portland was secured.”

Trump said: “We told the governor. We told the mayor. ‘Secure your city.’ If they don’t secure their city soon, we have no choice. We're going to have to go in and clean it out.”

Meanwhile, civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit to stop what they’ve described as ‘unconstitutional arrests and use of force against protestors.’

On July 23, a US district judge issued an injunction prohibiting police from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at rallies.

Protestors have accused the Trump administration of breaching their right to free speech, freedom from unreasonable seizures and the right to due process in accordance with the US constitution. Demonstrators filed a lawsuit claiming that officers were sent to ‘quash’ their rights.

Operation Legend

The announcement that US immigration officers would be withdrawn from Portland follows news that William Barr, the US Attorney General, has expanded ‘Operation Legend’ deployments of federal officers into three more US cities with Democrat mayors in ‘battleground’ states, crucial to the President’s re-election.

Trump administration officials insist that the deployment has nothing to do with BLM protests and remains focused on tackling violent gun crime. Mayors have demanded assurances that heavily armed and armoured agents are not on the scenes of protests in their cities.

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