U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers prepare for morning operations to arrest undocumented immigrants on April 11, 2018, in New York City. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is quietly training its deportation officers in the use of weapons more familiar to the U.S. military than to domestic law enforcement, federal records show.
The agency’s Enforcement and Removal Officers are being trained in the use of M4 assault rifles, chemical agents, stun grenades, and flash bangs, according to federal procurement records reviewed by TYT. The M4 assault rifle is used extensively by the armed forces and has been the primary service weapon for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The records show that ICE sought a Chicago-area shooting range that could accommodate training involving the military-style weapons. The contract with the Howell Shooting Range covers one year, with an option for three more. The documents do not indicate which ICE agents would receive such training, but cites a “current annual need” to train up to 160 agents quarterly.
It’s also not clear whether this training is new for ICE, but a search of the government’s spending database did not show prior contracts with the shooting range.
A spokesperson for ICE, Matthew Bourke, told TYT via email that the contract awarded to the Howell Shooting range “is for general firearm training and qualification services, which are intended to sustain readiness as mandated by department training requirements. The contract also supports ERO Special Response Team training requirements.”
ICE declined to comment on why they are training officers to use these types of weapons.
“Sounds like they’re getting ready for war,” a retired ICE agent, Rob Uribe Álvarez, told TYT. TYT previously reported that ICE had retained a former CIA interrogator to train agents in handling “terrorist suspects.”
ICE awarded the new shooting-range contract on June 1—less than one month after the Trump administration authorized its controversial policy of separating families caught crossing the border illegally.
In addition, whereas ICE previously had approximately 5,000 M4 rifles in the field, the agency—along with Customs and Border Protection—has recently acquired 8,000 more M4s, other federal procurement records show. The records also reveal that ICE signed a $15 million agreement with the M4’s manufacturer, Colt firearms, to maintain the rifles.
ICE declined to comment on why they increased their supply of M4 rifles.
A former deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security bristled at the notion that ICE’s deportation officers need these kinds of weaponry.
Commenting anonymously out of concern for his ability to secure future employment, he stressed to TYT how minor an infraction undocumented immigration is. “Most immigration violations are not a violation of federal criminal law, they’re just misdemeanors,” he said.