Oversight Subcommittee Seeks Information on “Citizens Academy” Programs at ICE
Washington, D.C. (Aug. 14, 2020)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Subcommittee Member Rep. Robin Kelly sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew T. Albence requesting information on the “citizens academy” training program being offered to civilians.
ICE recently announced that it was expanding its citizen academy programs—which previously was focused on the Homeland Securities Investigations (HSI) unit—with a new course in Chicago focused on the work done by the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) unit. According to a letter sent to “valued member[s] of the community,” the Chicago citizens academy is “the first of its kind” and will “serve as a pilot for nationwide implementation.” The letter neglects to mention that the curriculum apparently includes a visit to an immigration detention center, which could violate detainees’ privacy rights.
“The content and scope of these programs remains largely unknown to the general public and Congress, raising serious questions about their nature and purpose,” wrote the Members. The ERO academy “has caused distress in Chicago’s immigrant community, particularly in light of the Administration’s harsh immigration strategy. Because there is no publicly available information about the nature of the ‘scenario-based training’ described in the letter, officials and others in Chicago are voicing concerns that citizens academies would amount to an unchallenged opportunity for ICE to whitewash its deportation activities in an attempt to bolster its public image.”
ICE describes the ERO citizens academy as “an interactive six-week program” in which “key stakeholders” can “gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations” and help to “build a strong foundation of knowledge for those intrigued by the ERO mission.” The Chicago citizens academy, which is scheduled to begin on September 15, 2020, will be the first training to focus on the work of the ERO unit. According to ICE’s website, ERO’s mission is the “arrest and removal of aliens.”
“The apparently intensive nature of the six-week pilot program also raises the possibility that the citizens academies will encourage individuals in the community to help carry out the ERO’s mission,” added the Members.
As part of ICE’s HSI academies, civilian participants have taken part in simulated confrontations with suspects that involve active shooting scenarios. Such role-playing exercises—complete with simulated firefights—are of dubious public benefit.
The Subcommittee requested ICE provide the requested information by September 2, 2020.
Click here to read today’s letter.