The people of Portland are now experiencing what many people of color–particularly Latinos living on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico border–have experienced for decades: out of control DHS agents violating their constitutional rights with apparent impunity.
A few years back, I launched Checkpoint America: Monitoring The Constitution‐Free Zone, which examined Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoints located inside this country–checkpoints which are frequently used to detain, question and sometimes inflict violence on motorists who refuse to answer whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Since the Supreme Court misguidedly blessed the use of such checkpoints by CBP in the infamous 1976 U.S. v Martinez‐Fuerte decision, Congress has taken no action to put real limits on what CBP can and cannot do to people at those checkpoints, despite multiple General Accounting Office reports (2009 and 2017) showing how useless they are, and how they have morphed into generalized crime control checkpoints–something expressly forbidden in the Martinez‐Fuerte decision.
The lack of oversight and restraints on CBP has created a culture of impunity. The same has been true of its counterpart DHS agency, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for decades. The bitter fruits of the lack of oversight and accountability for those DHS components is now on full display in Portland.
The de facto kidnapping by DHS agents of Mark Pettibone on July 15 should have resulted in the immediate suspension of the agents and a civil rights violation investigation by the Department of Justice. But it is the Department of Justice, in coordination with DHS, that is facilitating these kinds of rights violations.
On May 31, the Justice Department authorized the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to conduct covert surveillance and related activities against Black Lives Matter protestors in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. And following President Trump’s issuance of a “monument protection” executive order on June 26, DHS on July 1 circulated press guidance to its components about how to field inquiries from reporters about pending deployments of DHS law enforcement personnel assigned to its “Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT)” for “potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of people and property.”
This isn’t about protecting monuments. It’s about using the people of Portland as involuntary human test subjects for political repression operations carried out under the guise of protecting federal property–operations that DHS, with legal cover and possibly intelligence assistance from DoJ, intends to export to other cities beginning this week.