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Proposed Chicago ICE 'Citizens Academy' Poses Threat to Residents, Critics Say

The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will build a new detention facility in the Chicago area.(Adobe Stock)
The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will build a new detention facility in the Chicago area.(Adobe Stock)
August 4, 2020

CHICAGO -- Starting in mid-September, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will open its first Citizens Academy, a six-week program the agency says is an opportunity for residents to learn about ICE policies and procedures.

But Liz Castillo, organizer with the group Detention Watch, said the decision to launch an ICE academy in Chicago is not just tone-deaf in the current political environment, it's potentially dangerous.

"At best, the school will serve as yet another mechanism for the Chicago ICE field office to attempt to cover the harm it perpetuates every day," Castillo said. "At its worst, this program - which includes training, in defensive tactics, firearms from the organization and targeted arrests - carries with it a lot of potential to foment racial profiling."

In a press release, the agency said the program is modeled after other law enforcement academies, designed to educate the public and familiarize participants with its mission.

Sandra Diaz, program coordinator at Chicago-based Mano a Mano Resource Center, said in addition to the Citizens Academy, ICE recently proposed building a new detention facility in the region.

"Many of the federal agents that are coming to Chicago are from DHS, specifically from a division under ICE called Homeland Security Investigations," Diaz said. "And they are a part of the administration's deportation pipeline."

Meanwhile, Diaz pointed out, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office is strapped for cash, and some reports say the agency could run out of money by the end of the month.

"If USCIS does shut down, many people will not become citizens in order to vote in the upcoming election. And we can't allow that to happen," she said.

Last week, USCIS announced a 20% increase in fees required for immigration and naturalization applications. The fee hike takes effect October 2.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - IL