Portman, Katko Call for DHS Action in Response to Rising Violence at Federal Buildings

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, and U.S. Representative John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, are raising concerns about the increasing number of assaults targeting federal law enforcement officers and government facilities in the United States. 

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Portman and Katko cited recent violence at a federal courthouse and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Portland, Oregon, and called on the Secretary to develop plans to deter and respond to these threats. 

“As you know, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has the statutory authority and obligation to ‘protect the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal Government . . . and the persons on the property,” wrote Portman and Katko

“The First Amendment right to peaceably assemble is one of the foundations of American democracy. Administration officials, Members of Congress, and law enforcement officers serving within your ranks have all taken the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” they continued. “We advocate for the right of every American ‘peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ Any violent attack on our nation’s law enforcement, however, is an attack on the rule of law and directly impacts the safety and security of all Americans.” 

Portman and Katko concluded by requesting information on the specific steps DHS is taking to assess the potential for attacks on federal buildings, deter violence against federal law enforcement officers, and implement plans to respond to civil disturbances at federal facilities. 

Read the full letter here and below: 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas, 

We write to you to express our concerns about the increasing number of assaults targeting federal law enforcement officers and government facilities in the United States. The continued violence at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse and the April 10, 2021 fire-related incident at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Portland, Oregon are just the latest concrete examples of this threat. 

As you know, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the statutory authority and obligation to “protect the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal Government . . . and the persons on the property.” Within DHS, the mission of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) is to provide security to more than 9,500 federal facilities and roughly 1,300 law enforcement officers nationwide. In addition, DHS has the legal authority to designate and deploy law enforcement officers and agents from DHS components in order to help FPS protect federal facilities. 

The First Amendment right to peaceably assemble is one of the foundations of American democracy. Administration officials, Members of Congress, and law enforcement officers serving within your ranks have all taken the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We advocate for the right of every American “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Any violent attack on our nation’s law enforcement, however, is an attack on the rule of law and directly impacts the safety and security of all Americans. 

Given the likelihood of further attempted attacks on federal law enforcement officers and government facilities, we kindly request your answers to the following questions regarding the Department’s plans for deterring and responding to these threats: 

1. What specific steps is DHS taking to assess, on an ongoing basis, the potential for attacks against facilities owned, occupied or secured by the Federal Government or the personnel in them? 

2. What specific steps is DHS taking to deter violent attacks against federal law enforcement officers and government facilities? 

3. What plans, policies, and processes does DHS currently have in place to respond to incidents of civil disturbance at federal facilities? 

4. Specifically, does the Director of the Federal Protective Service have contingency plans in place to respond to civil disturbances at federal facilities? Are there any capability or equipment shortfalls that limit their ability to respond? 

5. Has DHS requested assistance from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments regarding the use of curfews, security boundaries, perimeter fencing or other means to deescalate the tensions in and around federal facilities? If so, were these requests supported? 

6. Are there currently any restrictions on the Federal Protective Service that would inhibit FPS officers from protecting federal facilities nationwide? 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely, 

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