During protests in June, Portland (Ore.) mayor Ted Wheeler (D) appeared to align himself with radical pro-immigration agitators in the city who were protesting against the enforcement of federal immigration laws. In a series of tweets, Wheeler made clear his stance regarding cooperation with federal authorities. He tweeted, “I want to be very clear I do not want the Portland Police to be engaged or sucked into a conflict, particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track.” At the time, pro-immigration protesters had caused chaos outside the Portland ICE office, and even barged into the premises. “If [ICE agents] are looking for a bailout from this mayor, they’re looking in the wrong place,” Wheeler added.

Counted among the nation’s sanctuary cities, Wheeler said during his inaugural address that “the City of Portland will remain a welcoming, safe place for all people regardless of immigration status.”

Wheeler later said, he supports those “who are opposed to the forced separation of children from their parents."

"I've consistently stated that I do not want the Portland Police Bureau engaged in securing federal property that houses a federal agency with its own police force," Wheeler said.

Wheeler made good on his pledge as Portland Police Bureau commissioner to prevent local police from cooperating with federal law enforcement on June 20, according to a cease and desist letter sent by attorney Sean Riddell, who works for the union representing ICE agents. Issued on Monday, the letter reads: 

“Your current policy forbidding Portland law enforcement agencies from assisting employees of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency who request law enforcement assistance while at or away from work is a violation of the United States Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.”

If Wheeler does not apologize to ICE officer, Riddell threatened further legal action. 

So far, no apology has emerged from the Portland mayor’s office or police. A member of the “Resist” movement issued a response claiming that there was no such policy on the part of Portland police to refuse calls from ICE. The response said that Portland officers were instructed to respond when there was an “immediate life safety concern.” This conflicts with an email obtained by The Willamette Week in which Portland Police Deputy Chief Bob Day denied calls for help from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. Day wrote, “At this time I am denying your request for additional resources from PPB,” adding that Portland police would “if your officers are assaulted and need us to facilitate a safe exit from the conflict.”

“When the mayor gave the order that police would not support ICE employees trapped in [a building leased by ICE], he turned the lives of our employees over to an angry mob,” Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, which sent the cease-and-desist letter, according to The Washington Times.

According to Riddell, the attorney for the union, the protest camp that surrounded the ICE facility in Portland became a "zone of terror and lawlessness." Riddell wrote, "We understand that you have a difference of opinion with the current President of the United States.... but we fail to see why targeting the employees of ICE and leaving them vulnerable to violence, harassment and even death furthers a legitimate government interest." He added, "You have failed to articulate why these people deserve to be the target of your ire," in his June 30 letter. Riddell also argued that the mayor may have violated the guarantee of equal protection under the law found in the 14th Amendment. 

When the ICE facility reopened on July 3, it was protected by a phalanx of armed officers of the  Federal Protective Service. Protesters left behind tons of garbage, hypodermic needles, human waste, and construction materials at the protest camp. City workers had to clean up the mess.

Fox News show host Tucker Carlson and National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd discussed on Tuesday evening how Portland mayor Wheeler refused to cooperate with ICE. Judd said he strongly disagrees with Wheeler. While admitting that ICE is a police agency, Judd said that city police are supposed to keep order in Portland. "That is the wrong message to send," Judd said. "There's supposed to be a separation between law enforcement agencies."

Carlson said that Wheeler's statement means that American citizens (including off-duty ICE officers and their families) who called emergency services are seeing their equal protection rights jeapordized by Portland’s mayor because he disagrees with their politics. "That's the beginning of the end if we allow that," Carlson said. "Why aren't they being arrested -- where is the [Federal] Civil Rights Division on that?"




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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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