Tuesday, November 6, 2007

ICE Chief in Hot Water After Halloween Gaffe

Julie_myers_lg With limited administrative and immigration experience, Julie Myers was a controversial choice (here) to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  ICE, of course, is regularly in the news and its immigration enforcement efforts often provoke controversy.  Myers herself sparked controversy by suggesting at an academic conference at the University of Chicago law school that ICE should investigate whether unions are unlawfully aiding and abetting undocumented workers.

One persistent criticism of immigration enforcement is that racial profiling is endemic and that racial insensitivity is commonplace among immigration officers.  A troubling story suggests that ICE's top echelon is not particularly sensitive on matters of race.   

CNN  reports that the Department of Homeland Security will investigate a Halloween costume party hosted by Julie Myers and attended by a man dressed in a striped prison outfit, dreadlocks and darkened skin make-up, "a costume some say is offensive, the department's secretary said." Myers, host of the fundraising party, was on a three-judge panel that originally praised the prisoner costume for "originality." Myers later apologized for "a few of the costumes," calling them "inappropriate and offensive." She said she and other senior managers "deeply regret that this happened." A department photographer photographed Myers with the man, but the images were deleted after the costume were deemed offensive, ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said.

Between 50 and 75 people attended the party, which was a fundraiser for the Combined Federal Campaign, a federal government collection of charities.

This unfortunate Halloween party is not the worst racial faus paux of a high level immigration official.  Harold Ezell, Western Regional Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1980s, was infamous for comments made about "illegal aliens" -- that they should be "caught, skinned and fried." Senator Dennis DeConcini reportedly complained that Ezell used the term "`wets,'" apparently a shortened version of the pejorative term "wetbacks," to refer to undocumented immigrants seeking to cross the Rio Grande. In the campaign for Proposition 187 in California in 1994, Ezell mentioned that support for Proposition 187 was great because "`[t]he people are tired of watching their state run wild and become a third world country.'"

In comparsion to Ezell's many statements, Myers' gaffe is relatively tame.  But one has to wonder what was she thinking and how she could have made such a dumb mistake.

UPDATE  CNN reports that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has directed Myers to take an "administrative leave" while the department conducts an inquiry.  Myers was initially a recess appointment and later re-nominated by President Bush; her nomination has been placed on hold, according to CNN.

Think Progress has an interesting story about two Senators' refusal to criticize Myers.  The comments are revealing about th enational divide on issues of race.



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Heh Heh. Have we really come so far that a little good old fashioned racism by an agency that is supposed to protect the rights and dignity of all people can cause a commotion?

I mean, my goodness as my favorite Don used to say! All the costume wearer wanted to do was to hold black people up for ridicule! And all Julie Meyers wanted to was to say, "What a great use of imagination!"

It is all part of Bush's policy of appointing the worst people for any job and then letting them do the worst job.

We wouldn't even be talking about this if we had censorship, so opponents of racism are making the case for Bush's love of secrecy.

He should have had Cheney stamp the photos and the story of the party "VP Top Secret" and arrested the people who complained.

That is the Cheney vision of America: a place where all whites can feel welcome to poke a little fun at all others.

Posted by: tjproudamerican | Nov 6, 2007 10:06:03 AM

Is there any real legal proof that Ms. Meyers was a member of the "Halloween Costume Judges Group" - and that she concurred with the award given by the judges [as a whole] to the person who wore this offensive costume? Without hard evidence that can be used in court to prove, as fact, Ms. Meyers agreement and willing participation in giving this award - it does not seem that much [legally] can be done about Ms. Meyers alleged behavior. To be clear, I have no knowledge whatsoever regarding any of this . . . however, it just seems [to me] that without being able to prove [in court] what Ms. Meyers legally did or did not do . . . that not much can be done from a legal standpoint . . . I just want the truth, whatever it is, to come out and be proven as fact in court . . .

Posted by: unknown-soldier | Nov 11, 2007 8:04:31 PM

OK . . . now I have looked into this a bit more. It now appears that Ms. Meyers was a member of the judging panel and did approve/participate in giving the person who wore the offensive costume the award . . .

The next questions are . . . now what? What should the consequences be - what will the actual legal consequences [if any] be - who will determine what the actual legal consequences are - and who will administer/enforce these legal consequences on behalf of the United States Goverment to Ms. Meyers? I have no idea what the legal consequences should be . . . we can only pray that whatever the legal consequences are, that they are fair to all involved . . .

Posted by: unknown-soldier | Nov 12, 2007 7:57:10 AM

Whoa. I'm concerned about this story at so many levels. The words "gaffe" and "mistake' are judgmental. It's was a HALLOWEEN party "KJ." Let's re-ask a key question: What was she thinking? Umm, I don't know - maybe 'have fun on Halloween.' WTF! Should she have worn a fat-man cop uniform - and given out donuts? Who would have been offended? How about a pinstripe suit with greased hair and a briefcase? Which lawyer would have been offended? Better yet she could have worn a doctoral robe with a scary mask? Which professor would have been offended. This whole thing is BS. There are so many "types" of people in this world - and if anyone wants to 'dress up' and have fun on Halloween - let them. I bet you're one of the those sick MF's who want Santa to say "Ha Ha Ha" and loose weight.

Posted by: J | Nov 17, 2007 4:30:11 AM

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