They visited York County Detention Facility, perused the Forensic Document Lab and spent time at a firing range, honing their marksmanship skills. They also hit the books, learning firsthand about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from some of the agency's leaders. They're the inaugural class of the ICE Citizens' Academy.
ICE's Office of Public Affairs began the ICE Citizens' Academy to provide members of the general public with an inside look at ICE and how the agency enforces immigration and customs laws. Over the course of nine weeks, a total of 19 individuals met once a week in one of two locations – Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
For Blaine Young, president of Frederick County Commissioners in Frederick, Md., attending the Baltimore-based academy was an enlightening experience. Since Frederick County participates in the 287(g) program, Young is personally vested in learning about the agency and how its laws affect his community.
"I wanted to see if I could learn anything about ICE's immigration and enforcement program," said Young. "I learned that ICE has a budget to deport 400,000 people per year, and they try to deport the ones that are the biggest threat to us, the citizens, and national security."
Participants also learned a significant amount about Homeland Security Investigations, ICE's investigative arm. ICE's special agents conduct a variety of investigations ranging from drug trafficking to human smuggling to child exploitation.
The Baltimore and Washington, D.C. academies were part of a pilot program. After an initial assessment, the agency plans to roll out citizens' academies throughout the country.
"I would highly recommend to people on both sides of the spectrum – whether they think the government should be doing more or not be involved at all," said Young.