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