Representatives García, Schakowsky and Quigley Take Steps to Prevent ICE from Launching Citizen Academy Program

July 15, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Jan Schakowsky (Il-09) and Mike Quigley (IL-05) took important steps to prevent the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from launching an Enforcement and Removal “Citizen Academy Training” in Chicago. Earlier this week, Representatives Garcia and Schakowsky, joined by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee Chairs requesting their support prohibiting the use of funds to establish or continue the operation of citizen academies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office and the newly announced pilot for an ICE citizens academy for the Enforcement and Removals Office (ERO). Today, Rep. Quigley, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, successfully included an amendment to prohibit funding for this program in the Fiscal Year 2021 Homeland Security funding bill.

The “Citizens Academy” is currently set to launch in Chicago this September and aims to train citizens to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants. If allowed to begin, the program would dangerously increase fear and discrimination against immigrant communities and lead to increased violence and racial profiling. The amendment was adopted by the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote and is supported by the National Immigrant Justice Center, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Illinois.

The “Citizen Academy” program initially raised red flags for advocates when an invitation was sent out encouraging members of the community to learn about “defensive tactics, firearms familiarization and targeted arrests.”

“These ‘academies’ are nothing more than taxpayer-funded PR stunts to improve the image of an agency that continues to cage migrant children in inhumane and deadly detention centers. The launch of a pilot Enforcement and Removals Office (ERO) Citizens Academy in Chicago, directly contradicts the Department of Homeland Security’s claims of being too cash-strapped to carry out core components of their mission,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration further delays resolving USCIS visa and citizenship application backlogs while allowing further personnel resources to be allocated to unchecked programs that create fear within our communities. I’m proud to support my colleague, Rep. Quigley, to immediately defund these activities.”

“The United States is not a police state where ordinary men and women are deputized to carry out immigration enforcement based on discriminatory racial profiling practices. The so-called ‘Citizens Academy’ program would do nothing less than train Americans to suspect their friends or neighbors of being dangerous criminals, regardless of their actual immigration status,” said Quigley. “In Chicago, we believe that immigrants make our city great. ICE’s targeting of our city for this pilot program is an affront to our values and I for one, will not let it stand.”

 “We are a country of immigrants, and throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, we have a diverse population and welcoming communities that are open to all. When I heard that ICE is starting a ‘citizens academy’ for the Enforcement and Removals Office in Chicago, I knew they were trying to attack sanctuary cities by creating some sort of vigilante organization to harass, arrest and deport our immigrant community members. Given the history of ICE abusing its power, Congress must block any funding that would be used to support these kinds of programs that could lead to increased profiling and militarization by ICE,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

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