UPDATE (July 31, 7:17 p.m. PT) — The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the union that represents federal immigration workers, has sent Portland’s mayor a cease-and-desist letter.
The dispute started with Mayor Ted Wheeler instructing Portland Police not to intervene in a protest that lasted for more than a month and shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Portland for two weeks.
“Our membership has been subjected to threats of physical violence and harassment since you announced your policy,” lawyer Sean Riddell wrote on behalf of the union. Willamette Week first reported the letter.
Riddell said federal workers asked the city for help dealing with protesters on at least five occasions and were denied assistance.
Those requests included at least one 911 call, two calls from the Federal Protective Service to the Portland Police Bureau and two emails to the Portland Police Bureau requesting assistance.
In the cease-and-desist letter, Riddell said that Wheeler’s policy “created a class of people based upon their source of income,” and that by not dispatching police to help, the city violated the ICE employees’ constitutional right to equal protection, guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
The workers are seeking a face-to-face meeting with Wheeler and an end to any policy that bars police from assisting ICE employees.
“We learned a long time ago that it was unacceptable to spit on veterans because you disagree with the war they fought on. This is equally as unacceptable,” Riddell said.
The mayor’s office responded with a letter of its own, calling Riddell’s statements “inaccurate and inflammatory.”
“I have consistently stated that I did not want the Portland Police Bureau to be engaged or sucked into a conflict for the purpose of securing federal property that houses a federal agency with their own federal police force,” Wheeler wrote in a letter sent Tuesday.
The mayor said the city does not have a “policy” of not responding to calls for police by ICE employees, as Riddell suggested.
Wheeler went on to say that a city attorney contacted Riddell about his claims, but the union lawyer said he couldn’t disclose anonymous sources who told him Portland police did not respond to 911 calls.
“Given that the policy you cite does not and has not existed, and there are no confirmed examples of police failing to respond to calls for service, I ask you to send any additional information you believe supports the assertions in your letter,” Wheeler wrote.