ICE post­pones con­tro­ver­sial ‘Cit­i­zens Academy’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY ELVIA MALAGÓN, STAFF RE­PORTER emalagón@sun­times.com | @Elvi­aMalagon

U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment an­nounced Thurs­day it was post­pon­ing a con­tro­ver­sial sixweek “Cit­i­zens Academy” that was slated to start this month in Chicago.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates hailed the post­pone­ment due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic as a tem­po­rary vic­tory.

Ad­vo­cates as­so­ci­ated with the Illi­nois Coali­tion for Im­mi­grant and Refugee Rights had sent nearly 1,000 emails to ICE de­mand­ing it can­cel the academy, now slated for the spring.

“This de­ci­sion to post­pone the academy is def­i­nitely a re­sult of the pres­sure that was put on by many or­ga­ni­za­tions, not just lo­cal but across the coun­try,” said Rey Wences, of the Or­ga­nized Com­mu­ni­ties Against De­por­ta­tions.

ICE pre­vi­ously said the academy would be mod­eled af­ter other law en­force­ment acad­e­mies and would in­clude an overview of im­mi­gra­tion his­tory, a demon­stra­tion of the train­ing im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers go through, a tour of a jail hous­ing de­tainees and in­for­ma­tion about the divi­sion that oversees flights that de­port peo­ple.

But ad­vo­cates de­cried the academy as an ex­am­ple of white supremacy, say­ing it would lead to more fear among the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates plan to move for­ward on Sept. 15 with their “peo­ple’s academy,” which was meant to counter the start of the ICE academy, Wences said. The ad­vo­cates have also been host­ing weekly we­bi­nars, with some draw­ing more than 100 par­tic­i­pants, to in­form the pub­lic about how ICE op­er­ates.

“We be­lieve that this is not a time to slow down,” Wences said. “This is another re­as­sur­ance that our move­ment can make an im­pact.”

ICE said it wouldn’t ac­cept any more ap­pli­ca­tions for the Cit­i­zens Academy, and would reach out to peo­ple who had ap­plied to see if they were avail­able in the spring.

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