A Letter To My Congressional Representatives on the DHS Abuses of Power in Portland, Oregon

Dear Speaker Pelosi / Senator Harris / Senator Feinstein,

There are a lot of crises happening right now, and I could write a letter three pages long simply detailing my fears and frustrations and what I would hope from Congress. “There are a lot of crises” is already a terrifying sentence I never would have hoped to see in my lifetime. But the one that is most concerning at this moment is the abuse of power by the Department of Homeland Security in Portland, Oregon. In an NPR interview, Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli confirmed that federal agents have used unmarked vehicles to detain at least one protestor, and at the same time did not confirm whether it was /only/ one protestor. [1]

ACLU Oregon director Jann Carson said this in the New York Times: “What is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the United States. Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping. The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered.” [2]

And my friend Irene Knapp had this to add: “Imagine that, on voting day, there are uniformed troops everywhere, not from any specific agency. The way the US votes, it’s reliably always the urban centers that vote Democrat; imagine the troops are concentrated there. Imagine that everyone knows, because by that point it will be commonplace, that those troops can grab you any time they want and nobody will know what happened to you.” It sounds like ridiculous rhetoric in our country, and yet there is nothing stopping it from happening across the US, including in our own San Francisco. We already know that fears of attention from immigration police are affecting the results of the 2020 census; is this really going that much further?

Congress established the Department of Homeland Security. It can curtail it as well. Please take action before something worse happens than temporary detainment.

Jordan Rose
San Francisco citizen

P.S. Thank you to whichever staffer is reading this.

[1]: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/17/892393079/dhs-official-on-reports-of-federal-officers-detaining-protesters-in-portland-ore [2]: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/17/us/politics/federal-agents-portland-arrests.html

I sent this out today in response to the DHS abducting and detaining protestors in Portland, Oregon. I didn’t include a reference to Representative John Lewis, whose death was announced today, but I could have, since we know that similar tactics were deployed in the 1960s against the Civil Rights Movement.

I encourage you all to contact your representatives about this too, whether Democrats or Republicans. It’s not hard—you can send an email right from their website at https://senate.gov or https://house.gov. You can use mine as a template if you want, though maybe tweak the beginning to make it personal to you, as well as the non-NYT quote.

[A final note: “Irene Knapp” is the legal name of my friends the Irenes, quoted with permission, who are plural. Today is also Plural Pride Day, and I hope someday I’ll be able to use plural language to refer to them even in a formal letter to my representatives.]