ICE Slammed for Saying They Are Preventing Another 9/11, Accused of Using Tragedy to 'Justify Your Attacks on Communities of Color'

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is facing backlash after it named the "prevention of another 9/11" as the reason many ICE employees "go to work each day."

ICE made the statement in a tweet on Wednesday as the world marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"For ICE employees, the prevention of another 9/11 is the reason many go to work each day," ICE said.

"The very existence of [the Department of Homeland Security] & ICE, is the result of the worst terrorist attack on American soil," the agency said.

ICE was formed out of a restructuring in response to 9/11 that would go on to become the single-largest governmental reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense.

Then known as the "Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," ICE formally opened its doors in March 2003, less than a year after the passage of the November 2002 Homeland Security Act.

While ICE was created, in large part, in response to 9/11, one major immigration advocacy group took issue with the agency appearing to claim that the "prevention of another 9/11" was at the heart of its mission.

"How dare you try to justify [ICE's] inhuman actions (putting children in cages, separating families, raiding homes...etc.) by using 9/11," the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) asked in a tweet.

"Abhorrent that you use a day of remembrance for the victims and heroes to shamelessly plug [and] justify your attacks on communities of color," RAICES said.

RAICES was not alone in opposing ICE's statement, with many Americans bashing the agency over its claim, pointing out that ICE's primary focus in recent years seems to have centered around enforcing the Trump administration's hardline immigration crackdown.

Since Trump took office, ICE has featured prominently in the news cycle, with the agency repeatedly coming under fire for its part in enforcing President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" child separation policy. It has also played a major role in arresting and detaining immigrants in widespread raids across the country, plunging entire communities into chaos.

While at present, ICE may be best known for its role in seeing countless immigrants deported out of the country, the agency sought to drive home its message on Wednesday by sharing stories of ICE employees whose experiences of 9/11 did play a role in making them want to work for Homeland Security.

The agency highlighted the story of one ICE employee, Ken Genalo, an assistant field office director for ICE's Newark Enforcement and Removals Operation (ERO), which is responsible for facilitating the arrests and deportations of immigrants in the U.S. The agency described how Genalo "vividly recalls the scene at Ground Zero fifteen years ago as a volunteer first responder with the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service's Special Response Team."

"We were all there; it didn't matter what state we were from, it didn't matter what agency we were from–local, state, or federal–everyone left what they were doing in order to come here and help the City of New York in a time of great need," Genalo said in a statement shared by ICE.

"I use 9/11 as a motivational factor for myself, in the way that I preach my supervision to my delegates, my subordinates, my managers," he said. "And I want them to also use 9/11 as a motivational factor because it shows how important that the job and the mission is for ICE ERO to keep the homeland safe."

"The bottom line is that we must protect the people of the country, and then at the end of the day we all must go home to our families," he said.

As RAICES and other immigration advocacy groups have pointed out, ICE's widespread targeted enforcement operations have seen many families separated, with parents being arrested and deported out of the country in workplace and community raids, including a recent operation in Mississippi that saw hundreds of immigrant workers arrested.

ICE agent
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's special agent prepares to arrest alleged immigration violators at Fresh Mark, Salem, June 19, 2018. ICE is facing backlash after saying its employees show up to work for the 'prevention of another 9/11'. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty