Racism towards Black civilians by local law enforcement officers is as old as racism towards Blacks by whites in general in this country.  So it came as no surprise to me when I found out that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been covering up its own brewing scandal involving African-Americans and racism.

In the Los Angeles office of the DHS’s investigative arm the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (otherwise known as ICE), out of about 500 employees there are only a little over a dozen African-American immigration enforcement agents on staff.  The number below in the graphic illustrates a combination of sworn and civilian employees.


EXHIBIT A – Workforce Profile of the Los Angeles office of the DHS/ICE as of 2011.

As you know, ICE agents are responsible for preventing illegal immigration activities and preventing the trafficking of illegal goods into the country.  ICE agents are also tasked with securing the nation’s borders in the pursuit of potential threats to U.S. citizens.

So it’s kind of ironic that ICE agents would find themselves the targets of domestic terrorist like activities carried out by other ICE agents, but that’s just what happened.

Quiet as they’ve tried to keep it, the DHS’s Los Angeles ICE office is in turmoil after several Black ICE agents discovered racial slurs written across their lockers in permanent marker.

Those slurs included the words “monkey” and “liver lips,” the latter of which has been used by in the past by conservatives when describing President Barack Obama.  Both words have a sordid history in this country having been used countless times to depict African-Americans in a negative light with the intent to offend and dehumanize.

EXHIBIT B - The word monkey scrawled on the locker of a Black ICE agent in the Los Angeles office of the DHS.

EXHIBIT B – The word “monkey” scrawled on the locker of a Black ICE agent in the Los Angeles office of the DHS.

EXHIBIT C - The word "liver lips" scrawled on the locker of a Black ICE agent in the Los Angeles office of the DHS.

EXHIBIT C – The word “liver lips” scrawled on the locker of a Black ICE agent in the Los Angeles office of the DHS.

Because of the location of the lockers, access is limited to certain personnel.  Basically put, the chances of a civilian getting into the facility and randomly selecting the lockers of only African-American ICE officers to denigrate with racial slurs about African-American is almost impossible.  No, those slurs were put there by other ICE officers who clearly don’t like African-Americans.


EXHIBIT D – ICE Agent sends memo regarding racial slurs

After the incident was reported, several of the agents involved claimed that they were retaliated against by the organization for following the instructions of the organization’s own policy on anti-harassment.


EXHIBIT E – DHS/ICE Anti-Harassment Policy

As I write this now there are several racial discrimination and harassment investigations taking place as well as several official complaints that have been filed on behalf of Black ICE officers with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Apparently it’s no secret in the Los Angeles office of ICE how Black agents are routinely harassed and discriminated against and apparently the agency has done little or nothing about it. Regarding this particular incident, they’re trying to sweep it under the rug. But if I’ve got the documents that strategy obviously isn’t going to work.

We’ll have more on this developing situation.


Jasmyne A. CannickJasmyne A. Cannick is a native of Los Angeles and writes about the intersection of race, pop culture, class, and politics.  She was chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and One of the Most Influential African-Americans in Los Aneles Under 40. She can be found online at jasmyneonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at facebook.com/jasmynecannick.