- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Enter the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and you’re confronted with two doors: one green and labeled “unprejudiced” and the other red and labeled “prejudiced.”

Those who try the green door find they can’t open it and are directed to “think” and then go back and use the red door — a way of telling them they have an inherent prejudice.

For the past four years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to send executives for a special racial justice training program at the museum.

That’s about to end, The Washington Times has learned.

The agency told employees that the Tolerance Museum training is one of two programs it’s axing to comply with President Trump’s September executive order instructing the government to examine its training programs and get rid of any that promote “divisive concepts” such as inherent racism in all people of a certain race.

The other program is an implicit bias training program for Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigative force that probes child pornography, counterfeit football jerseys, violent street gangs and other issues.

“Pursuant to the executive order on combating race and sex stereotyping, ICE reviewed all employee training programs relating to diversity or inclusion to ensure that the agency’s efforts encourage employees not to judge each other by their color, race, ethnicity, sex or any other characteristic protected by federal law. Upon review, ICE has determined that two course offerings will no longer be available,” the agency said in an internal newsletter, which The Times reviewed.

ICE didn’t respond substantively to inquiries about the decision, but the agency said in the newsletter that it still valued anti-stereotype training and “funding that would have been used for these training courses will be reinvested in other professional development opportunities for employees.”

An official of the Homeland Security Department told The Times that the Tolerance Museum training was exactly the sort of thing the executive order was trying to weed out of agencies.

The official said one part of the ICE training program at the museum involved a Nazi uniform as a spur for conversation.

“The message is, ‘You guys are a step away from being Nazis,’” the official said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which runs the Tolerance Museum, said it has not received any notification from ICE about canceling the program.

But it provided testimonials from ICE employees who have been through the program and said it was worthwhile.

One called it “motivating and introspective,” and another called it “the best leadership course I have ever attended.” Still another said the tie between the training and the museum exhibits “tied it all together.”

Dubbed “tools of tolerance,” the program has been used by tens of thousands of law enforcement officers over the years, though ICE said in 2016 that it was the first federal agency to use it and had spent more than a year tailoring the program to ICE’s needs.

The three-day course in Beverly Hills used the museum’s focus on the Holocaust and comparisons to racial strife in the U.S., such as the Civil Rights movement and the 1992 Los Angeles riots, to help ICE executives “recognize their own inherent cultural biases,” according to ICE.

Then-Director Sarah Saldana said the goal was to “transform the way” the agency’s leaders see their workplace.

The museum at the time said it was “inspiring” to work with ICE. That drew outrage from immigrant rights activists, who said it was shocking that a Jewish organization that sprang from Holocaust survivors would praise ICE.

The Homeland Security source said Ms. Saldana signed off on the relationship after a reported race crime in ICE’s Los Angeles field office, in which disparaging language was reportedly written on someone else’s property.

But the source said the incident was later determined to be a hoax.

The racial justice training remained, however, until Mr. Trump’s executive order sparked a rethink.

Irked by the aftermath of racial justice riots this summer, the president on Sept. 22 said the government shouldn’t be supporting programs that view the U.S. as “irredeemably racist and sexist.”

“Such ideas may be fashionable in the academy, but they have no place in programs and activities supported by federal taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Trump said in his order.

He ordered agencies to stop paying for programs that “promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating.”

Agencies are already changing their contract language to comply, the National Law Review reported Monday.

Mr. Trump’s order also faces legal hurdles, with civil rights groups suing to block it. A federal judge in California will hold a hearing Thursday on a request to issue a preliminary injunction.

Some analysts also expect presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden to reverse the executive order. Whether agencies would restore canceled programs is unclear.

ICE canceled the Tolerance Museum and HSI implicit bias programs on its own, but, like other agencies, it has sent a list of other potentially questionable training programs to the White House for review.

Another ICE program took place at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown Washington, just a couple of blocks away from ICE’s headquarters. Titled “Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust,” the daylong course involved seminars about behavior and how the Nazis rose to power “unchallenged.”

At one point, participants were shown photos of Nazi SS troops, the Homeland Security official said. The message there, too, was “ICE is a step away from being a Nazi police force,” the official said.

The Anti-Defamation League was a partner with the Holocaust Museum in developing the program, but it says it cut ties with ICE because of Mr. Trump.

“As we became increasingly concerned with the policies and practices of ICE under the now-outgoing administration, we ceased providing this program to their officials,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement to The Times. “We remain open to revisiting this partnership in the future if our concerns with the agency are addressed.”

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