After Shutting Down ICE “Citizen’s Academy,” Leaders Pivot to Ballot Box to Advance Racial Justice Agenda



A crowd of 300 leaders from across the Chicago area gathered in front of ICE’s regional office on the day that ICE was set to start its vigilante “Citizen’s Academy” in downtown Chicago. ICE’s Chicago field office announced its plans to hold a “Citizen’s Academy” in July, offering participants training in "firearms familiarization and targeted arrests." This academy was an open invitation to vigilante activity targeting immigrant communities--the same vigilantism we saw last month in Kenosha that took the lives of two Black Lives Matter protesters. ICIRR and its members flooded the inboxes of ICE’s leadership and members of Congress with over 1,000 emails demanding they shut down the academy.


Last week, ICE announced it was postponing the academy until spring 2021 citing COVID concerns. “ICE detention centers are superspreader sites for COVID--29% of all ICE detainees tested positive for COVID according to ICE’s own reporting,” said Fasika Alem with the United African Organization,  an ICIRR member who helped plan the event.  “For them to suddenly take the pandemic seriously is disingenuous. The truth is that they didn’t want to be forced to respond to the fact that they were planning on training vigilantes and exciting more violence and terror on our communities.”


Though the ICE Academy was postponed, the organizations went forward with an alternative “People’s Academy” to provide public education and action items to address issues at the intersection between policing and immigration enforcement.  “The systems that work to disappear, disempower, and criminalize immigrants have the same white supremacist roots as the police who also disappear and criminalize our Black, brown, and immigrant communities,” said Esmerelda Montesinos of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. Leaders gave presentations regarding the history of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the upcoming federal budget vote around ICE funding, and the push for community control of the police through an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) as a pathway to divest and defund police and investing in communities instead.


“ICE and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are both parts of the US Department of Homeland Security,” said Maggie Lugo with Casa Michoacan. “We are calling on DHS to focus its resources and capacity on citizenship support, and to start accepting new DACA applications as the Supreme Court mandated. ICE gets billions of our tax dollars. Meanwhile, nearly 300,000 immigrants won’t become citizens in time to vote in the November elections because of USCIS’s capacity limitations and mismanagement. All the while new reports are surfacing that medical staff at an ICE facility were conducting hysterectomies on detainees without their consent. This is why we are calling on our members of Congress to reassess our priorities and the use of our tax dollars, to defund and ultimately abolish ICE, and to fully fund citizenship supports and other resources that will help our communities thrive and not just survive.”


“Where we head with immigration, policing and investments in our communities is all on the ballot this November,” said Sief Salameh with Arab American Family Services. With the election just weeks away, ICIRR and its members are pivoting their efforts to mobilize over 125,000 immigrant voters to turnout to vote in November.  “ICIRR members will collectively be reaching hundreds of thousands of immigrant voters who support a vision for our state and county that ensures everyone gets treated with dignity and respect regardless of who they are or where they were born.”


The People’s Academy was organized by ICIRR and its members, Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR).


The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.


Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) is an undocumented-led group that fights  deportations and criminalization of Black, Brown, and immigrant communities in Chicago and surrounding areas. Find out more at www.organizedcommunities.org


The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) is a Black-led, left-led organization by and for working and oppressed people. We defend the civil liberties of workers, activists, and prisoners. We struggle against white supremacy, the prison-industrial complex, and state violence. We demand community control of the police and full representation for Black people and other poor and oppressed people at all levels of government. Visit www.caarpr.org for more information.


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ICIRR is dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.
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