Halt ICE ‘Cit­i­zens Acad­emy’ in city, im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates say

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY ELVIA MALAGÓN, STAFF RE­PORTER emalagon@sun­times.com | @Elvi­aMalagon Elvia Malagón’s re­port­ing on so­cial jus­tice and in­come in­equal­ity is made pos­si­ble by a grant from the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates in Chicago are call­ing for U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to stop plans to cre­ate a Cit­i­zens Acad­emy that is ex­pected to be­gin on the same day of the start of His­panic Her­itage Month.

The acad­emy, sched­uled to start Sept. 15, will take place six days a week for six weeks and will give res­i­dents insight into the agency’s op­er­a­tions. It will in­clude a trip to one of the jails that con­tracts with ICE to hold peo­ple in im­mi­gra­tion cus­tody.

“The Cit­i­zens Acad­emy also af­fords ICE the op­por­tu­nity to hear from par­tic­i­pants, un­der­stand their per­spec­tives and de­bunk myths,” the agency said in a news re­lease.

But ad­vo­cates like Miguel Lopez, of Or­ga­nized Com­mu­ni­ties Against De­por­ta­tions, said most peo­ple al­ready know how ICE op­er­ates through sto­ries of peo­ple be­ing de­ported. Lopez’s brother was re­cently de­ported to Mex­ico.

“ICE does not need to tell their story, they’ve been telling it by their ac­tions since the ex­is­tence of the agency,” Lopez said.

Joaquin Vasquez, an or­ga­nizer with the la­bor group Cen­tro de Traba­jadores Unidos, said the acad­emy will add to the fear that ex­ists among im­mi­grants who dread be­ing stopped by an im­mi­gra­tion agent or be­ing taken from their fam­i­lies.

“This agency has sep­a­rated mil­lions of fam­i­lies at the border,” Vasquez said in Span­ish. “And now they want to train reg­u­lar peo­ple to do the same in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

An ICE of­fi­cial said the acad­emy is in­tended to be mod­eled af­ter other law en­force­ment academies, and it’s not meant to train peo­ple to do the work of im­mi­gra­tion agents. The acad­emy was ini­tially go­ing to be held in Jan­uary, but it was moved to the fall.

Bár­bara Suarez Galeano, of the De­ten­tion Watch Net­work, said she didn’t think it was a co­in­ci­dence that the acad­emy will start as His­panic Her­itage Month gets un­der­way.

Ad­vo­cates also worry the acad­emy will lead to racial pro­fil­ing and in­creased ten­sions.

Sara John, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the St. Louis In­ter-Faith Com­mit­tee on Latin Amer­ica in Mis­souri, which falls within the ju­ris­dic­tion of ICE’s Chicago field of­fice, thinks the pro­gram is an “en­dorse­ment of white supremacy.”

Let­ter: ICE re­viv­ing plans to build a pri­vate de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity

Ad­vo­cates also ex­pressed con­cern about the fed­eral agency’s con­tin­ued push to build a pri­vate im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ter in Dwight, about 75 miles south­west of Chicago. CBS-2 ob­tained a let­ter from ICE, dated July 23, that stated an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment would take place in Dwight for “the procuremen­t of de­ten­tion ser­vices” for de­tainees fac­ing re­moval pro­ceed­ings.

ICE de­clined to com­ment on the mat­ter but an of­fi­cial said a con­tract had not yet been awarded for the project. Jared An­der­son, the pres­i­dent of the vil­lage of Dwight, con­firmed that he re­ceived the let­ter and was seek­ing an­swers about what it means.

“We don’t know what’s go­ing on. That’s the best we can tell you,” An­der­son said by phone.

He said the vil­lage was un­der the as­sump­tion that the constructi­on of the fa­cil­ity, which would house up to 1,000 peo­ple, was de­railed af­ter Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that pro­hibits pri­vate de­ten­tion cen­ters in the state.

Jor­dan Abu­dayyeh, a spokes­woman for Pritzker, said the gov­er­nor was com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that law is fol­lowed across the state.

Im­mi­gra­tion Cen­ters for Amer­ica ex­pressed in­ter­est in build­ing the fa­cil­ity in Dwight, but the com­pany was un­der the im­pres­sion the project had been shelved, said spokesman John Tr­us­cott. He said ICE has not com­mu­ni­cated with the com­pany about the Dwight project and was sur­prised to learn of the let­ter’s ex­is­tence.

TYLER LARIV­IERE/SUN-TIMES

Around 50 ve­hi­cles cir­cled around honk­ing their horns at Chicago’s ICE head­quar­ters de­mand­ing the re­lease of all im­mi­gra­tion de­tainees from de­ten­tion cen­ters in Illi­nois, on Mon­day.

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