My Turn: Homeland Security is endangering lives of Americans

For the Monitor
Published: 7/30/2020 6:20:24 AM

Question: What is the connection between Portland, Ore., and the Strafford County House of Corrections (“county jail”)?

Answer: Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.

This is not a joke. Homeland Security sent armed federal agents wearing unmarked uniforms and driving in unmarked vehicles to use excessive force against a few vandals (mostly graffiti) and peaceful protesters in Portland, Ore. This was done at the behest of President Trump and against the requests of the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon. Since then, the protests have grown violent. He has now started to send similar federal forces into Chicago.

Here in New Hampshire, Acting Secretary Wolf has ordered new asylum seekers, now ICE detainees, to be incarcerated into our local county jail after our New Hampshire congressional delegation (Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster) sent him a letter and also despite having previously agreed to send no new detainees to the jail a month ago.

In both cases, the acting secretary endangered the lives of Americans while overriding the concerns and requests of the local officials. (To be clear, Homeland Security had already promised not to send any new detainees into the jail at that time our congressional delegation sent their letter. That letter was an inquiry about health conditions and not a request to keep detainees out of the jail.)

It is also important to emphasize that Wolf is a Trump-appointed “acting” secretary, meaning he did not go through the usual congressional vetting process with regards to qualifications or oversight to get the job that earns him a salary and benefits at taxpayer expense.

These actions are all examples of the Trump administration, through Acting Secretary Wolf, ignoring the requests of local officials to push a partisan agenda. We should be protesting this serious incursion of our right to govern our local communities and protect ourselves from the spread of the coronavirus and from federal government overreach.

Yet, there are more people in New Hampshire concerned about their freedom to infect the community with COVID-19 by not wearing a face mask than their freedom of self-governance from an administration that boasts it has the right to do whatever it wants.

This is a time when we need our local elected leaders to speak out on our behalf. Our health and the health of our local economy are at stake if Homeland Security is bringing in potentially new cases of coronavirus into our neighborhoods. Gov. Sununu, Sen. Shaheen, Sen. Hassan, Congressman Pappas and Congresswoman Kuster should all send an unequivocal and strongly worded message to Acting Secretary Wolf and the Trump administration that we do not want any additional ICE detainees sent to the Strafford County House of Corrections until this pandemic is completely under control in the United States.

(Dr. James Fieseher lives in Dover.)

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