A top DHS official is seeking to reassure Senate Democrats that specially trained ICE agents who may be deployed to supplement Justice Department officers in Chicago — part of a surge of enforcement personnel that the Trump administration has sent into U.S. cities amid rising crime — pose no risk to efforts by local police.
In a five-page letter to Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Illinois Democrats, Assistant DHS Secretary Beth Spivey said any concerns that the ICE agents, part of the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, would be unprepared to supplement law enforcement efforts are “completely misplaced.”
The Homeland Security Investigations agents, she said, undergo a 56-day “Criminal Investigator Training Program” that teaches “basic” techniques, followed by a 71-day “Special Agent Training” program that provides in-depth teaching on investigations such as cyber crime, child exploitation, national security investigations, firearms and tactical building entries.
“The special agent-trainees are assessed through written exams, practical exercises, and arduous physical fitness training,” Spivey wrote. “Only after fulfilling these requirements are the HSI special agent-trainees bestowed with the appropriate credentials.”
In addition, the agents are statutorily empowered to investigate a wide range of crimes — from money laundering to commercial fraud to art theft to narcotics and child exploitation, she wrote.
The response to Duckworth and Durbin comes amid growing anger among Democrats who have accused the Trump administration of deploying federal resources to boost Trump politically, rather than in a genuine effort to combat crime.
Democratic lawmakers have raised particular alarms about the presence of ICE agents and other Homeland Security personnel in support of these efforts, arguing that they’re not properly trained to support local law enforcement efforts. Duckworth and Durbin wrote to DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on Aug. 5 specifically worrying about reports that ICE was preparing to send HSI agents to Chicago and were not up to the job.
But Spivey said DHS “generally” works closely with state and local police, including in Chicago.
“[W]ere circumstances to evolve and an increase in DHS law enforcement presence become warranted, we would coordinate that increase with local and state leaders in Chicago and the State of Illinois, respectively,” she wrote.
Spivey also addressed questions about DHS’ presence in Portland, where officers were deployed to confront violent protests outside a federal courthouse, but raised similar alarms among Democrats that they had overstepped their mission and were cracking down violently on peaceful protesters as well. As of Aug. 8, Spivey wrote, DHS officers sustained more than 300 injuries, including 113 eye injuries resulting from high-powered “laser pins.”
Other injuries, she said, included 96 hearing injuries, 72 injuries resulting from thrown objects, fireworks and other projectiles, nine knee injuries, four sprains, two lacerations, two back injuries, two toe injuries, one foot fracture resulting from nails placed outside the courthouse, one shoulder injury, one groin injury and one thumb injury.