Reps. García, Davis, Gallego and Grijalva Demand Answers from ICE about Militarization of Operations
Washington, D.C. - Congressmen Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) are leading a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew Albence raising their deep concerns about reports that the agency is building an “urban warfare” training facility in Fort Benning, modeled after neighborhoods in Chicago and Arizona.
ICE awarded an almost $1 million contract to the company Strategic Operations to build a military-style training facility for ICE agents to “experience combat conditions in a training environment that truly reflects real world conditions.”
“The whole concept for this new training facility is a clear signal of Trump accelerating the militarization of ICE. It is disturbing and deplorable to try to terrorize our communities at the expense of taxpayers. Building replicas of neighborhoods in Chicago is no accident – it is meant to normalize violence and to desensitize ICE officials as they enter our communities. This is a declaration of war on our neighborhoods and completely against our values as a country that is welcoming of immigrants,” said Rep. García (IL-04).
“The growing militarization of ICE is an ominous and dangerous escalation of the racist rhetorical assault on immigrant communities and normalization of the policies of family separation which have characterized federal policy over the past few years. It is not about law enforcement, it is not about justice, it is not about national security, it is not consistent with our values as a nation, nor our standing in the international community. The deployment of military style weapons and tactics on our streets will solve no legal, social or economic challenges but the human cost will be immense if left unchecked,” said Rep. Davis (IL-07).
“For the Trump Administration, cruelty is the entire point when it comes to immigration policy. The growing militarization of ICE is the latest example of this administration’s dangerous escalation when it comes to its assault on immigrant communities. Its only purpose is to demonize immigrants, terrorize communities of color, and cause divide among Americans,” said Rep. Gallego (AZ-07).
“Constructing ‘urban warfare’ training centers to target vulnerable immigrants is emblematic of an agency that lacks any semblance of accountability and sensibility under the Trump Administration’s immigration policies,” said Rep. Grijalva (AZ-03). “This latest decision raises further concern about the increasing militarization of ICE and its impact on our communities. ICE should immediately halt its plan to construct these centers and cease their baseless attacks on immigrant families.”
The text of the letter is below and can be found at this link.
September 10, 2019
Mr. Matthew T. Albence
Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Dear Acting Director Albence,
We write to express deep concern that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is building an “urban warfare” training facility modeled after neighborhoods in Chicago and Arizona.[i]-[ii] The acquisition description and the statement of work published by ICE’s Office of Acquisition Management are incredibly disturbing, especially considering ICE’s history of targeting families and instilling fear in our communities. The new military-style training center is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars, further betrays the public’s trust, and is one step shy of declaring war on the communities and families we represent. We strongly urge ICE to rescind its decision to award Strategic Operations, or any other entity, a contract to construct a military-style training facility.
According to details of your plan, the agency awarded an almost $1 million contract to Strategic Operations to build a new military-style training facility at the Tactical Operations Complex (TOC) at Fort Benning, Georgia.[iii] Strategic Operations will build “hyper realistic” replicas of buildings from Arizona and Chicago neighborhoods so ICE agents can “experience combat conditions in a training environment that truly reflects real world conditions.” The statement of work outlines that each structure must include props found in a typical residential building, including furniture, appliances, fixtures, clothing, and toys.[iv] Further, your agency lists Strategic Operations’ work providing urban-simulated facilities for military training, urban warfare training services, and preparing special effects, namely, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, explosions, and combat wounds for use in military training as additional facts supporting the award. This gives the appearance that ICE, under the direction of President Donald Trump, is preparing for war in neighborhoods in Arizona, Chicago, and communities around the country.
Please provide answers to the following questions:
- Please share any further rationale, evidence, or analysis ICE utilized to determine and justify the agency’s plan to build the “state-of-the-art tactical training facility.”
- What criteria were used to identify and select Chicago and Arizona training style models?
- Does ICE intend to build additional training sites on other U.S. military bases for similar purposes? If so, will you replicate other communities or cities?
- When is the training facility at Fort Benning expected to be completed and in full operation?
Both the acquisition description and the statement of work give our communities the impression that ICE is training for war in our neighborhoods, and we strongly urge ICE to rescind its decision to move forward with the execution of these plans. We continue to oppose the militarization of domestic law enforcement agencies and the actions of your agency to target families and hard-working people. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04) Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) Danny K. Davis (IL-07)
Member of Congress Member of Congress
CC: Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary
Department of Homeland Security