University will not renew its contracts with ICE

By SABRINA ABRAMS | September 19, 2019

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COURTESY OF STEPHANIE LEE

For months, students called for the University to end its contracts with ICE.

Hopkins Medicine Senior Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Kim Hoppe announced in an email to The News-Letter on Wednesday that the University would not be renewing its contracts with the U.S. Department of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). 

“After careful and deliberate consideration, the JHU Center for Law Enforcement Medicine will not be renewing this contract,” Hoppe wrote. “We notified the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations (OI) several weeks ago and are currently negotiating a transition period that will allow for a safe and orderly wrap up of the medical programs.”

The administration claimed that the decision was made several weeks ago yet declined to provide an exact date. 

This announcement came in contrast to the beliefs of the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE (HCAI), as they posted about the renewal of a contract between the University and ICE on their Facebook page on Sept. 12. 

HCAI member and Political Science graduate student Conor Bean commented on the University’s decision.

“If they’re not lying through their teeth, this is fucking great,” Bean said. “Obviously we applaud this decision, that was the goal. I guess also, we are going to have to keep an eye on it, and make sure this is all… what the Department of Homeland Security thinks is going on.”

He then explained that the contract they believed to have been renewed was detailed on a public government funding website called usaspending.gov

The page describes the recipient of the contract, which is the University, and the awarding agency and subagency, which are the Department of Homeland Security and ICE.

The website stated that ICE paid Hopkins $365,508 to provide training to ICE agents in tactical medicine will last until Sept. 18, 2020. 

The previous contract for tactical medical training, which was worth $941,780, expired Sept. 19, 2019, and had been in place since September 2015.

When asked why the website details contracts that the University says no longer exist, Hoppe deferred responsibility to the U.S. government. 

“That’s a question for the Department of Homeland Security,” she wrote.

The University has otherwise been silent about whether they were going to renew the contracts with ICE, though Bean alleged that they defended the contracts in talks with members of the Sit-In this summer.

Although the University declined to provide the reasoning behind their decision to not renew the contracts with ICE, this decision follows three protests, one of which included a walk-out, over the course of the 2018-2019 school year. The protests were organized by HCAI, which includes a variety of campus activist organizations such as Refuel Our Future, Teachers and Researchers United (TRU) and Students Against Private Police (SAPP). 

These protesters demanded that the University cancel and not renew the contracts with ICE. Protesters who were part of the Sit-In at Garland Hall this past spring also included in their demands that the University cancel the ICE contracts. 

The University provided tactical medical training to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a division of ICE. 

HSI is responsible for many of the workplace raids that the U.S. government has conducted. 

Sam Mollin, a member of Refuel Our Future, explained how he believes Hopkins enabled workplace raids by providing tactical medical training, prior to hearing that the contracts had not been renewed.

“Workplace raids can’t happen without a tactical medical unit and given that the Trump administration is trying to increase the amount of workplace raids, it’s logical to assume a lot of the new medical trainees are going to go into that, or at least a significant amount of them, so it means Hopkins is directly supporting a lot of those raids,” Mollin said. 

Like Mollin, Bean believes that Hopkins is complicit in ICE’s workplace raids.

“They said that the contracts... don’t deal with the part of ICE that removes people, it’s the part of ICE that deals primarily with investigating human trafficking,” Bean said. “The trouble is that doesn’t hold up. HSI holds the raids.”

He went on to explain that HSI conducts the raid where 680 immigrants were rounded up by ICE in Mississippi. 

“The agents could very well have been trained at Hopkins. This split between good and bad ICE that they’re trying to drive home and stake their credibility on doesn’t really exist,” Bean said. 

He also noted that the Homewood administration appears to have given responsibility of the contracts with ICE to the Hopkins Medical School.

“Since the sit-in, the administration on Homewood [has been] effectively punting the entire issue over to the med campus,” Bean said. 

A key focus of HCAI’s protest activities last year was asking Hopkins to release a copy of their then-plural contracts with ICE. 

Bean alleged that the University has not responded to their request for the contracts, and raised concerns about the content of the contracts based on the University’s refusal to release them. 

“[We] filed the Freedom of Information Act request a few months back. That’s still in process. We sent a letter to the Center for Law Enforcement Medicine and its directors asking for the contracts. We haven’t heard anything,” Bean said. “If it’s not as bad as they say, they can just release the contract.” 

Staff worker and member of HCAI Nicholette Stachowiak said that the University’s lack of transparency speaks to a refusal to communicate important information to the Hopkins community.

“It’s a long tradition of this University not clearly communicating or being transparent about any of the decisions it makes,” Stachowiak said. “HCAI tried to ask questions of the professors and administrators of the emergency medical program and they tried to ask about more details about these contracts with ICE, and there was no response at all.”

Stachowiak expressed remaining concerns about the alleged affiliation of Dr. Nelson Tang with ICE and whether this affiliation would provoke complications in the future. 

Tang is the associate professor of Emergency Medicine, as well as vice chair for Operational Medicine at the Hopkins Medical School. 

“He’s also the tactical medical director for ICE or at least has been in the past,” Stachowiak said. 

Bean echoed Stachowiak’s concerns, explaining that HCAI believes based on publicly available documents that Tang is responsible for providing the tactical medical training to HSI agents, including a PowerPoint Tang composed regarding collaborations between the University and partnered agencies.

These agencies included ICE as well as the U.S. Secret Service. 

The University did not respond to a request for comment asking if Tang was responsible for providing the tactical medical training. 

Nonetheless, Stachowiak expressed hope upon hearing that administrators did not intend to renew the University’s contracts with ICE. 

“This is a pretty big step because that’s a source of income for that program,” Stachowiak said.

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