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Quigley Amendment Would Prevent ICE from Launching “Citizen Academy” Program

Jul 15, 2020
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, successfully introduced an amendment to prohibit funding for ICE’s “Citizen Academy” pilot program from 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 Committee on a voice vote and is supported by the National Immigrant Justice Center, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Illinois.

“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 of 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.”

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.” The announcement met with staunch opposition from House Democrats, including from Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), who, with Representatives Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), led a letter requesting that the Appropriations Committee prohibit the use of funds for the program.

“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.”

“We are a country of immigrants, and throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area in particular, 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.

During the Appropriations Committee markup today, Quigley spoke in favor of the amendment, saying in part, “This program has yet to become operational and with this amendment, it never will.”

Video of Quigley’s full remarks are available HERE and the text of his remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

I have an amendment at the desk.

Madame Chair,

My amendment strikes funding for ICE’s so-called citizen academy programs across the country.

This program has yet to become operational and with this amendment, it never will.

In Chicago, ICE’s office of Enforcement and Removal Operations recently announced a 6 week “Citizens Academy” pilot program on immigration enforcement that will begin in September.

This program intends to train everyday citizens on how to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants,

And includes courses on defense tactics, firearms instruction, and targeted arrests.

This cannot simply be understood as a program designed for citizens to learn about a federal law enforcement agency’s operation,

Instead, it will perpetuate a culture of fear and discrimination,

That will inevitably lead to increased violence and racial profiling in our communities.

It is neither the right nor the responsibility of civilians to carry out immigration enforcement in the United States.

Regardless of how one feels about the Administration’s policy—I for one am deeply opposed—

We should agree that federal law enforcement does not need to build up an unofficial citizen police force aimed at suspecting neighbors and friends.

Under this Administration, ICE and ERO have simply lost the benefit of the doubt—and in many communities, the trust of the American people all together.

For that reason, I urge a YES vote.