Blumenauer, Lieu Call on Congress to Stop Federal Law Enforcement Overreach

July 21, 2020
Press Release

As federal law enforcement officers continue to patrol Portland against the wishes of state and local officials, U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) are calling on their colleagues in the House to join them in stopping this federal overreach.

 

In a letter sent to House colleagues, Blumenauer and Lieu announced they will soon introduce new legislation to restrict the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize other federal employees to perform the functions of a Deputy U.S. Marshal. The bill would also prohibit the Attorney General from designating Drug Enforcement Administration officers to enforce federal laws outside of their Title 21 authority. However, it allows for an exception when the federal support is requested by a state governor.

 

“From the dramatic influx of unnecessary federal agents, to the egregious use of violent tactics, it’s clear that the Trump Administration’s goal in Portland is to inflame tensions for political gain, rather than to keep our city safe,” Blumenauer said. “No community should face such a siege from the very people sworn to protect them. In order to ensure the rights of all Americans, it’s clear that we must fundamentally change the way federal officials can be deployed and used.”

 

The lawmakers’ letter to their colleagues comes after unidentified federal authorities in Washington, DC and Portland, OR arrested citizens without proper cause or consent of the local and state authorities.

 

"What happened in Washington, DC and Portland is outrageous," Lieu said. "There are legitimate uses of the U.S. Marshals' deputizing authority. This is not one of them. Our bill would prevent the U.S. Marshals from deputizing other federal officials unless their support is first requested by the state governor. We cannot allow this Administration or any future one to abuse its authorities against Americans practicing their First Amendment right to protest. In light of reports that the Trump Administration may use authoritarian tactics in additional cities around the country, we are working at breakneck speed to reign in this unfettered and troubling use of force."

 

Blumenauer and Lieu expect to introduce the legislation in the coming days.

 

Following is the full text of the letter Blumenauer and Lieu sent to their colleagues on Monday:

 

Dear Colleague,

 

Over the last several weeks, Americans have responded to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others by protesting against the structural racism embedded in our country. We are encouraged that so many people are exercising their First Amendment rights to stand up against these injustices.

 

At the same time, we are outraged that the Trump Administration has responded to these First Amendment-protected gatherings by authorizing the deployment of federal law enforcement officers without the consent of local authorities. For example, in May, officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Homeland Security—who are not ordinarily trained in crowd control—responded to peaceful protests in Washington, D.C. that turned injurious after police escalated their use of force. The Mayor of DC opposed the deployment of these federal units.

 

In July, law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, including the Bureau of Prisons, Federal Protective Service and Border Patrol, responded to protests in Portland, Oregon—again not having been trained for these types of events. The Governor of Oregon, Members of Congress in Oregon, and local elected officials all oppose the deployment of these federal units.

 

Congress provides federal agencies specific authorities to enforce federal laws, with some flexibility. These flexibilities have allowed the Attorney General to use Drug Enforcement Administration officials to enforce non-drug related laws and the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize other law enforcement officers with expanded authorities. In some cases, such as when responding to natural disasters, these additional powers have been legitimately exercised. We cannot, however, allow agencies to abuse them as we have recently seen in Washington, D.C. and most recently Portland.

 

In response to these events, we will be introducing legislation to uphold the First Amendment rights of all Americans. Specifically, our legislation would restrict the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize other law enforcement officers, such as Bureau of Prisons and Department of Homeland Security personnel, to perform the functions of a Deputy U.S. Marshal. The bill would also prohibit the Attorney General from designating Drug Enforcement Administration officers to enforce federal laws outside of their Title 21 authority. This legislation includes exceptions, which would allow for the expanded law enforcement activity when it has been requested by state officials.

 

We invite you to join us in this effort.

 

Sincerely,

Earl Blumenauer

Ted W. Lieu