A striking exchange on Feb. 12 between Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams exposed tensions between federal and local officials working in Portland.
The two clashed at a work session where city commissioners interrogated law enforcement officials about the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Hardesty has championed the effort to have Portland withdraw from the JTTF.
One of the key criticisms from opponents of Portland's involvement the JTTF has been the connection to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It's no secret that Portland officials object to ICE enforcement efforts in Oregon and that federal officials have long been frustrated by local interference in their operations. Those tensions were on full display in the exchange between Hardesty and Williams.
At the work session on Feb. 12, Hardesty asked Oregon's top federal prosecutor if he believes in the state's sanctuary law, which prohibits local and state law-enforcement agencies from spending money enforcing federal immigration laws. Here are the highlights from the exchange:
Hardesty: "It's really a yes or no question, Mr. Williams. You either believe in it or you don't."
Williams: "I understand it exists."
Hardesty: "That is the law in Oregon. So, we are supposed to believe the FBI and the JTTF is following Oregon's law. So, whether we agree with it or not, that is the law in Oregon?"
Williams: "We're not required to follow Oregon law. We're required to follow federal law. It is the PPB officers assigned to the JTTF who must follow, as has been described repeatedly here, who must follow state law and we respect that."
Hardesty: "But again, if you don't support this law and we have Portland Police officers working with you as part of the JTTF, then it is a slippery slope that we go down. You have testified here earlier that you supported Oregon state law. We can't have it both ways, you either support it or you don't."
Williams: "That's your opinion, commissioner."
Hardesty: "And I'm entitled to have one, I guess."