If you've always dreamed of learning how to be a Junior Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, without the actual government job, legal authority, or occasional limits imposed by the judiciary, have we got a fun class for you! ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), the division of the agency that arrests and deports people, will be holding a six-week "Citizens Academy" at the agency's Chicago office, coming up in September. That's according to an invitation letter obtained and posted online by the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America; another copy of the same letter was posted to Twitter by immigration attorney Ashley Huebner. Huebner says the letter was sent out via US Citizenship and Immigration Services to an email list of local "stakeholders."

In the letter, ICE Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian invites interested locals to sign up for six weeks of training, one day per week, which will help participants

gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations, and hopefully an awareness and appreciation of the issues our officers face every day in the performance of their duties.

In addition to a thrilling introduction to ERO's Chicago staff, attendees will learn about the "lifecycle of a subject through ERO," which makes immigrants marked for deportation sound like they might as well be migrating salmon. Smart call, since sticking to rivers may throw off the hounds. And there'll be hands-on activities, too!

Attendees will participate in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.

Gosh, we wonder if that'll include a safe and positive look at how ERO agents should scoop up and write a falsified confession for an adult with severe mental disabilities. Or how to trump up evidence and distort a law-abiding DACA recipient's statements so they can fast track him for deportation as a dangerous gangbanger. Possibly a workshop on tracking down DACA recipients who speak out in the media against Trump immigration policies? How about at least an introduction to poring through counselors' notes to find statements detained kids made, thinking their counseling sessions were confidential, to find stuff to use against the kids?

Hold on there, Dok, there's only so much that can be covered in six weeks!


It turns out that ICE has actually been running similar Citizens Academy classes since 2012, although they originally had an apostrophe (Citizens' Academy) that was eventually dropped. Up until now they've been run by one of ICE's other major divisions, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which focuses more on the "customs" part of ICE's name. HSI agents don't sully their hands with raids of meatpacking plants, leaving kids crying for their parents, or arresting dads right after they've dropped their daughters off at school, also with the crying children and heartbreak, to protect America's whiteness.

A press release about a 2017 "graduation" for an HSI Citizens Academy class in New York said the participants had received

a behind the scenes look at HSI New York's Border Enforcement Security Task Force airport and seaport operations, El Dorado Task Force financial investigations, Operation Community Shield transnational gangs investigations, Trade Enforcement operations regarding intellectual property rights violations and human exploitation investigations concerning human smuggling and sex trafficking.

The Chicago class is announced as the "inaugural" outing for an ERO Citizens Academy; the invite says it's the "first of its kind" and will serve as a pilot for nationwide implementation. Guadian encourages the recipient to fill out an application that was sent along with the letter; we couldn't tell whether applications are more generally available.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, ICE said the program is

an opportunity for the community to get a transparent, insider's view of ICE's immigration enforcement operations.

ICE is inviting interested participants from a variety of stakeholder backgrounds including: community groups, state/local elected leaders, Congressional staff, consular officials and business and religious leaders.

So, not random militia loons from Facebook, unless they happen to be elected or in the Jaycees? Gosh, it would be really improbable for some kind of rightwing extremist to fall into any of those "stakeholder" categories, unless it were like a quarter of the Republicans we write about here every day.

The ICE statement went on to describe other parts of the curriculum that Guadian's letter hadn't gotten into, such as

classroom instruction, visiting an immigration detention center, learning more about the health care ICE provides to those in its custody, and examining ICE's role in an immigration case from start to finish.

Congressman Jesús 'Chuy' García, whose district is in Chicago, told Newsweek he found the whole thing unsettling, and worried it sounded an awful lot like an effort to recruit junior G-Men who might get a little gung-ho about playing Immigration Enforcer. He said the course

appeared to be "inviting people to become an extension of ICE... to possibly surveil their neighbors who might be undocumented."

He also feared that the invitation might appeal to "right-wing individuals who might like the vigilante lifestyle," which could lead to potential violence. [...]

People who share in the president's "beliefs about immigration," he said, could be drawn to the program and feel that they are being given a license to profile, surveil and potentially attack community members.

Well heavens there's certainly no precedent for that, unless maybe you recall that pretend cop in Oklahoma who donated a lot of equipment to the Tulsa Sheriff's Office and got to go along on actual patrols, until he shot a man dead. (The pretend cop thought he'd grabbed his taser, but it was his pistol.) Happily, the ICE program doesn't appear to include any actual ride-alongs with agents on real raids. At least not yet.

And ICE is far from the only agency doing this sort of thing; this 2018 Chicago Tribune story points out that citizens academies are run by a number of federal agencies, such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). It's a whole subculture of law enforcement junkies community stakeholders who want to understand the role of law enforcement in their communities. The Border Patrol even runs a training program called "Law Enforcement Explorers" for 14 to 20-year-olds, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts; check out this fascinating profile at The Nation from earlier this year.

So stop worrying, folks! This ICE program is no more terrifying than any of the many other terrifying law enforcement public propaganda outreach programs out there. Isn't that a relief?

[Newsweek / ERO Citizens Academy invitation letter / Chicago Tribune / Nation / Ashley Huebner on Twitter]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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