New documents brought to light by an investigative watchdog group show that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had to undergo “cultural bias” training in 2016 by a group known for opposing immigration control efforts.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute uncovered the documents by Freedom of Information Act request. ICE officials attended a three-day “Tools for Tolerance” seminar put on by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles earlier this year, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
During the training, officials were instructed to develop “greater cultural awareness” and to “recognize their own inherent cultural biases.”
According to the documents, part of the workshop entailed “[e]xamining issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination in a historical and contemporary context” and building the “high levels of trust” required “across boundaries of cultures and religions.”
The seminar also discussed how ICE agents can transform themselves from “Soldiers to Educators.”
The LinkedIn profile of the Tools for Tolerance program manager, Mark Katrikh, indicates that he is an expert on “cultural diversity” and “bias based policing.” He has in the past taught several seminars specifically on immigration.
ICE Director Sarah Saldana said in a blog post that the goal of the seminar was to “change the way you see and see the way you change.”
It isn’t clear why ICE decided to choose the Simon Wiesenthal Center for training its officials, as the group has a clear pro-immigration agenda. For example, the Center has blasted Arizona for forwarding The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which mandates that police examine the immigration status of a person arrested or detained, supposing that there is reasonable suspicion the person could be an illegal.
ICE refused to state how much of taxpayer funds it spent on the training, which included hotel and flight costs.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is focused on informing the public on diversity and human rights, as well as bringing attention to the Holocaust. The group receives millions every year in grants from the federal government. Despite its intense focus on human rights, during the George W. Bush administration, the organization aggressively advocated for the Iraq War. It has also been severely criticized for establishing a Museum of Tolerance right on a Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem.