As a new report in The Outline explains, the hot new trend among truly awful people is impersonating ICE agents with the intent of scaring immigrant communities.
The trend goes coast-to-coast: In California, New York, and Virginia, individuals wearing fake ICE paraphernalia have already put communities on edge. In at least one case, they also demanded that an undocumented immigrant hand over $250 to avoid getting deported:
In February, a group of four men wearing ICE jackets approached an immigrant man in Woodside, Queens and told him he’d be deported unless he gave them money, a city councilman said. The man, who officials did not name in order to protect his family, handed over $250 before fleeing.
More recently, in San Rafael, CA, a man wearing what appeared to be an official ICE jacket showed up at a Spanish-language church service, where he took photos and videos before abruptly leaving. As CBS San Fransisco reports, the man didn’t actually work with the agency—but churchgoers didn’t know that at the time:
While the man was not an ICE agent, he looked enough like one that he scared the congregation at their Sunday evening service and the incident sparked a police investigation.
It isn’t hard to make yourself look like you might be an ICE agent. All you really need is a jacket or a polo, plus a willingness to exploit the fear of an already-terrorized community. From The Outline:
On eBay, fake ICE badges and lapel pins are available from multiple sellers, along with ICE-branded sweaters, hats, and fleece vests. And although a quick Google search shows that this unofficial ICE swag rarely resembles officers’ actual uniforms, it’s not always easy to tell at first glance.
And although anyone has the right to ask to see an ICE agent’s badge, challenging a badge’s legitimacy means risking angering someone with the actual power to detain you.
Although federal laws do prohibit civilians from fully impersonating police officers, they don’t stop people from simply wearing shirts or jackets that look like they could feasibly belong to those officers.
Itai Ozderman, a 35-year-old information technology employee in Virginia who impersonated an ICE agent, actually told detectives in Falls Church that he was a law enforcement agent—which is why Ozderman has been charged with violating the law.
But the man who went to the Spanish-language church service in San Rafael never actually said he was an ICE agent, so police concluded he hadn’t actually violated the law. Officers told the East Bay Times that they would forward the case to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office for additional review.
Earlier this week, ICE Director Thomas Homan told members of Congress that he thinks all undocumented immigrants should feel worried.
“If you’re in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable,” Homan said. “You should look over your shoulder. And you need to be worried.”
Congrats, Thomas! ICE impersonators are here to help.