Sunday, November 11, 2007

The ICE Halloween Minstrel Show

Found this one over at The Narcosphere:
Julie Myers, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unmasked her true character recently at a Halloween party she hosted on behalf of a charity.

The event was meant to raise money for the Combined Federal Campaign, which is a federal government charity effort similar to the United Way campaign. But Myers must have deemed it an appropriate event to also raise awareness of her affinity for the bygone era of Minstrel shows.

Myers, the leader of a federal law enforcement agency that has some 15,000 employees, was part of a three-member panel at the Halloween event that was assigned the holiday task of doling out awards for the best costumes. Some 50 to 75 people were at the Halloween gala, according to press reports, so the competition was fierce.

But apparently, in Myer’s mind, one of the winners was a clear-cut choice. That individual played off the law enforcement theme of the gathering by donning a striped prison outfit as a costume. His originality was only outdone by his creativity. In a clever allusion to the century’s old history of slavery and its more recent Jim Crow cousin, the ICE employee also sported a dreadlock wig and blackface.

Myer’s was so overwhelmed with the sheer brilliance of this individual’s attire that she and two other individuals on the judging panel selected this white employee’s Halloween getup for the most original costume award. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Myers also sought to memorialize the moment by posing for a photo shoot with the blackfaced reveler.


The leadership of Customs, and its successor agency ICE, has a long history of tolerating and even rewarding racism within its ranks. History offers evidence for that claim.

Customs was among the three federal law-enforcement agencies that were the subject of congressional hearings in the 1990s in connection with an event called the `Good O’ Boy Roundup,’ and all had agents attending or organizing the event.

The Good O’ Boy Roundup was an annual party held in the backwoods of Tennessee that was marked by blatant racist activity. The other two agencies involved in the 1995 congressional hearings were the U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) -- both also part of the Treasury Department at the time.

“On July 11, 1995, a newspaper article appeared on the front page of the Washington Times entitled, Racist ways die hard at Lawmen’s retreat -- Annual ‘Good O’ Boy Roundup’ cited as evidence of ‘Klan Attitude’ at BATF,” states a March 2002 court filing by the law firm of Shaffer, Rapaport & Schmidt, which at the time represented African American BATF agents as well as Hispanic Customs agents in class-action discrimination lawsuits filed against their agencies.

“... The article detailed allegations of racist misconduct by personnel of the BATF and other federal law enforcement agencies [including Customs] at an annual retreat outside Ocoee, Tenn.”

The court pleadings continue as follows:

“... The tape (of the event) was shocking. It showed a ‘Nigger check point’ sign at which, ostensibly, cars were checked to determine whether blacks were trying to attend the Roundup. Another sign asked, ‘Any niggers in that car?’ There were also Confederate flags posted at the event.

“In his testimony (before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 1995) BATF Director John Magaw … acknowledged that racist activity had taken place at the Roundup every year it occurred since 1985. Director Magaw described to the committee some of the activities at the Roundup, including a skit that was put on in which a person dressed as a Ku Klux Klansman simulated performing sodomy on a person with a blackened face.”

In the wake of the Congressional hearings in the mid-1990s prompted by the "Roundup," little appears to have changed with respect to the racist atmosphere of federal law enforcement agencies. Myers’ recent display of bigotry is just one more example of that reality.

The case of Customer supervisor Ricardo Sandoval is yet another illustration.

Sandoval, who served as the resident agent in charge of the Customs Office of Investigations in El Centro, Calif., in July 2000 won a U.S. Court of Appeals case in which Customs was challenging a 1998 lower court’s finding that he had been the victim of discrimination and retaliation. In that lower-court case, Sandoval raised allegations that a neo-Nazi ring was operating inside the Customs Service in the San Diego area. The case stemmed from an incident in 1992 in which Sandoval’s first-line supervisor in the Office of Internal Affairs in Calexico, Calif., ordered him to investigate a complaint that involved a white supervisor assaulting a black officer.

Legal documents filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., in May 2002 in a related class-action discrimination lawsuit against Customs describe the rock-throwing incident as follows:

Several white Customs managers had thrown rocks at Ken Lakes and it appeared to be racially motivated. One of the perpetrators wore a Nazi Swastika ring. Evidence was developed showing that these Customs managers collected Nazi memorabilia and they had scrawled swastikas on lockers and elevators in Customs buildings.

Sandoval came to believe that a neo-Nazi group was behind the incident. He reported it to his superiors and recommended that it be referred to the United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution as a “hate crime” under the civil rights statutes. His request was denied and he was told that Customs would send out a memo saying inspectors should not throw rocks at black employees.

Sandoval ignored his superiors and reported the results of his investigation to the United States Attorney’s Office, where the case was referred to the Justice Department’s hate crimes unit in Washington, D.C.

Thereafter, Agent Sandoval’s upgrade to GS-14 (rank) was denied and he was not selected for the Internal Affairs/Office of Enforcement rotation. He did not receive temporary acting supervisory assignments. Based on the foregoing, Agent Sandoval filed an EEO complaint alleging discrimination and retaliation.

In 1998, a California federal jury awarded Sandoval $200,000 for discrimination and retaliation. Several jurors said they believed that corruption and discrimination may be systemic within the Customs Internal Affairs unit where Sandoval worked in 1992.

And then there’s the case of the “Racist Manifesto.”

In the late 1990s, an anonymous letter was sent to Customs headquarters by a Customs agent in El Paso, Texas. The letter was addressed to Raymond Kelly and sent to headquarters in the spring of 1998, about three months before Kelly was sworn in as Commissioner of Customs. On September 29, 1998 — nearly two months after Kelly took over the helm at the agency — an Internal Affairs unit from Customs headquarters was dispatched to the El Paso office to investigate the allegations made in the letter.

Copies of the anonymous letter and the subsequent Customs investigative report were obtained from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). In addition, related legal documents were obtained in which the anonymous letter writer is identified as Special Agent Sean Mulkearns.

In the correspondence, Mulkearns makes a series of unsubstantiated charges concerning a group of Hispanic Customs agents working in the El Paso Customs Office of Internal Affairs. Mulkearns is Caucasian, and the individuals referred to in the missive as “Mexican Mafia” are Hispanic Customs agents.

Among the accusations made in the letter are the following:

“There are a number of agents/supervisors which have banded together into what the … office calls the ‘Mexican Mafia.’ These agents have gravitated to the Office of Internal Affairs. They have and are pursuing what can only be called ‘vendettas’ against a number of agents. ... Many of these vendettas started years ago but these Mafia agents never forget.”

Later in the letter:

“All of these ringleaders/agents [the Mexican Mafia] have started their careers, either as patrol officers, inspectors, or El Paso police, in the El Paso office’s jurisdiction. They have significant ties and dealings with smugglers. Some rumors state that some smugglers are in their close family relations, but that information is closely guarded. They have positioned themselves to know when one of their ‘OWN’ relatives or close friends is being investigated and to snuff out any competition. ... They [the Mexican Mafia] have gravitated to and infiltrated the Office of Internal Affairs [in Customs’ El Paso office) in a slow and progressive manner.”

Later in the letter:

“I believe if these rogue agents [the Mexican Mafia] are allowed to solidify into a ‘Hit Team’ in IA [Internal Affairs], it will eventually lead to physical violence and possibly someone being shot.”

Mulkearns at one point refers to the Hispanic agents as a “band of low lifes” and says they should be forced to submit to polygraph tests. “If they refuse to submit, then they should be transferred—with no hope of returning to the El Paso area,” Mulkearns’ letter states.

“I have always believed that nothing sanitizes better than shining the light of day onto it,” the letter concludes.
It is signed (spelling as it appears in the letter): “Sempre Fi, a Good/Honest Customs Agent.”

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