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Criminal Justice & Legal System
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Legal expert says Trump’s promise to send feds to Detroit may cross Constitutional line

officer in riot gear
Adobe Stock
President Trump sent federal agents to Portland, Oregon earlier this month.

Credit University of Texas
Prof. Stephen Vladeck

President Trump says he’s preparing to send federal agents to Detroit. 

Earlier this month, the president sent federal agents to Portland, Oregon, to deal with what he called the city’s inability to stop nightly Black Lives Matter protests.

The violent clashes between protestors and police that have followed have involved personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service, but also from the Border Patrol and other arms of the Department of Homeland Security. It’s been harrowing, with lots of tear gas, peaceful protestors shot with less lethal ammunition, and some very unusual tactics for arrests. 

The U.S. Attoney for the Eastern District, the chief of police in Detroit, and the mayor of Detroit all say federal agents will not be used to go after protestors, but rather to curb gun violence in the city. 

Steve Vladeck is a professor at the University of Texas School of Law and a co-host of “The National Security Law Podcast.” He told Stateside he is alarmed by Trump’s deployment of DHS officers in lieu of “trained, disciplined, politically constrained” military officers. 

“It's more of the same, just an administration that is not bound by conventional political constraints and that is perfectly happy taking every legal authority it has to its breaking point if not beyond," Vladeck said. 

Vladeck said residents in Detroit should pay attention to what the officers’ alleged responsibilities are, and if their actions are in accordance those responsibilities. 

“[In Portland] I think there's increasingly little question that the federal government has gone past its statutory and constitutional mission. That's the line that's hard to draw, but it's critical to draw, and it's the one that we ought to be looking for if we see deployments like that in additional cities like Detroit."