Representative Peter King’s Homeland Security hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” convinced me to prepare this blog post about an initiative established in the DHS/ICE Special Agent in Charge office in New York City. A brief overview of the initiative provides a unique insight into the concerns of a group of Muslim-American community leaders about their community, and more importantly, their country. I say their country because these leaders made it very clear from the beginning that the United States of America is their country.
Subsequent to 9/11, the ICE SAC/NY office established the “ICE Muslim-American Advisory Committee” consisting of approximately 12 prominent Muslim-American community leaders. The Committee was formed at the urging of these leaders to open lines of communication between ICE (Investigations and Detention/Removal) and the Muslim community in NYC. The Advisory Committee, which met in the SAC office every two months, served as a forum for the discussion of a multitude of subjects that were important to the Muslim community including ICE arrest and detention procedures, cultural sensitivity, community outreach, law enforcement trends and requirements, community complaints and concerns, and ways the Muslim community could assist ICE.
From my perspective, the meetings were productive because they provided the office the opportunity to explain and demonstrate that ICE initiatives and procedures were not profiled specifically on the Muslim community but focused to address the prominent national security threats, regardless of religious and/or ethnic affiliation. On the other side, it allowed the Muslim community to voice specifics as to why they believed they were being profiled by ICE.
At a meeting, subsequent to the London subway bombings in 2005, members of the Advisory Committee voiced concern that Muslim-American youth could be radicalized to commit an act of terrorism similar to the U.K. Although, I do not recall that we used the specific term “homegrown terrorism,” there was no doubt that these prominent community leaders feared there was the possibility that “disenfranchised” Muslim youth could be convinced to commit a radical act in the United States.
To address this concern, the Advisory Committee hosted a joint federal law enforcement–Muslim youth “town hall meeting” to address and discuss post-9/11 law enforcement initiatives in the United States. Specifically, they wanted to provide a forum for the open discussion of federal law enforcement policy and activities with Muslim youth.
The “town hall meeting” was held at a hotel in NYC and attended by an overflow crowd of Muslim-American students representing a multitude of universities and high schools in the New York metropolitan area. At the meeting, I was honored to represent the DHS/ICE SAC office in NYC along with the FBI/NY SAC for national security investigations.
There was an open question and answer period on a multitude of law enforcement issues and initiatives addressing local concerns, and misconceptions (and rumors) about ICE and FBI activities. The meeting was very informative on both sides and subsequent feedback to the Advisory Committee was positive. At the request of the Committee, both ICE and the FBI used the “town hall meeting” as an opportunity to recruit prospective special agent candidates.
Since my retirement, I have continued to meet with members of the ICE Muslim-American Advisory Committee in NYC. They remain committed to serving their community and the United States of America.