More than six months into the Biden administration, Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said he’s failed to receive adequate answers into the deployment of untrained federal officers in his hometown of Portland by the previous administration last year. CNN reports that a letter sent to the Biden White House in June in anticipation of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) nominee Chris Mangus’ Senate hearing has gone unanswered.
Wyden has now said he’s halting Mangus’ hearing until he gets needed responses. "While it is clear that Customs and Border Protection faces pressing issues, as the senior senator from Oregon, I am unable to advance this nominee until DHS and DOJ give Oregonians some straight answers about what they were up to in Portland last year, and who was responsible,” BuzzFeed News reports Wyden has told the Biden administration.
“Members of Congress, local officials, and the public have expressed concerns about CBP’s presence and questionable actions—especially given the agency’s track record of abusive policing tactics and use of excessive force,” groups said last year in suing for information about the deployment of officers to protests following the police murder of George Floyd last year. Among officers sent to terrorize demonstrators in Portland were members of a special tactical unit that then raided a humanitarian medical camp in the border desert.
“At the time, Wyden had sought answers from then-Attorney General William Barr and former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf about the deployment of federal officers, calling the response on the ground ‘intolerable,’” CNN reported. Wyden again relayed his concerns to their successors, Merrick Garland and Alejandro Mayorkas. The Washington Post reports that while he has received some information from officials, “the answers fell short.”
“As they have not provided [responses], Sen. Wyden informed the administration this week he would not be able to hold a hearing until his questions are sufficiently answered," CNN reports Wyden’s office said. Mangus, Biden’s nominee to officially head CBP, is “a progressive police chief who promoted community policing efforts while overseeing departments in Tucson and Richmond, Calif,” The New York Times reported in April.
While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general released a report in April saying the department had authority to ploy officers from CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service, they were unprepared. “Specifically, not all officers completed required training; had the necessary equipment; and used consistent uniforms, devices, and operational tactics when responding to the events in Portland,” the report said.
Jenn Budd, a former senior border agent turned whistleblower, told The Guardian last year that the special tactical unit deployed to Portland is among “the most violent and racist in all law enforcement.” Humanitarian organization No More Deaths, which exists to prevent the horrific deaths of migrants in the border wilderness, said that members of CBP also stabbed gallons of water during the raid on its camp last year. Border agents already have a disgusting history of destroying water intended for migrants. They’ve even been caught on tape in the act.
Then-candidate Biden slammed the previous administration’s attacks on protesters, saying in a statement at the time that “Homeland Security agents—without a clearly defined mandate or authority — are ranging far from federal property, stripped of badges and insignia and identifying markings, to detain people. They are brutally attacking peaceful protesters, including a U.S. Navy veteran.”