Among the top 10 organizations in Maryland profiting from work with the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), you won’t be surprised to find weapons manufacturers, IT firms or facilities operators. But you might be surprised to find Johns Hopkins School of Education.
Starting in 2009, Johns Hopkins has had ongoing contracts with ICE worth millions of dollars for “training and educational programs” that, according to the school, “support the ICE mission” and “strategic goals” and “contribute to measurable outcomes and results.”
But chief among ICE’s “measurable outcomes and results” is mass deportation.
ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s responsible in part for carrying out the horrific Trump administration policy of family separation for immigrants and refugees seeking entrance to the U.S. at the southern border. ICE has also consistently targeted Baltimoreans, many community members with families and ties, for deportation. The targeting has been so bad that the city established a legal defense fund for immigrants subject to ICE proceedings.
ICE has also become a symbol of the escalating attacks from the U.S. government and far-right organizations on immigrants and refugees. For this reason, progressive organizations and several Democratic officials have called for its abolition.
JHU’s profitable collaboration with ICE highlights the stunning hypocrisy of the university and its leaders. Many times since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Hopkins president Ron Daniels has affirmed the university’s supposed commitment to immigrants. In February 2017, shortly after the implementation of Mr. Trump’s first Muslim ban, Mr. Daniels cited his own family’s history as Jewish refugees from Poland as evidence of his solidarity with “so many others who found refuge and opportunity in a new nation. ... So many who — despite the ignorance and fear they encountered as newcomers — went on to pursue education and contribute to the social, economic, intellectual, and cultural life of their adopted homelands.”
In September 2017, he recommitted the university to supporting DACA — the deferral of deportation action for young people brought to this country illegally as children — and assured nervous international students that the university would stand with them. Just last month, he shared concerns that Mr. Trump’s immigration policies compromise “the founding principles of our pluralistic society, particularly our stated commitments to openness, to freedom of expression, and to opportunity for all.”
Yet, in light of JHU’s ongoing collaboration with ICE, it seems that these words are merely meaningless platitudes, shared by a man more concerned with his own public image than with the actual well-being of the people he pretends to support. His defenders will say he and the School of Education are “just doing their jobs” without considering that the same was said of the people passively facilitating the worst atrocities in history.
Once again, we see JHU pretending to stand for progressive principles while reaping the rewards of dirty business.
While you may have been surprised at first to see JHU in the list of the largest Maryland ICE-profiteers, a closer examination of Hopkins’ record shows this is simply standard procedure for a university bent on increasing militarization. Johns Hopkins is one of the largest academic contractors of the Department of Defense and has long been an engineer of the military’s deadliest weapons, from missiles in World War II to assassination drones in the War on Terror. JHU recently received a contract for nearly $1 billion for the development of nuclear weapons technologies. On a more local scale, Hopkins caused a controversy this past spring for attempting to push a bill through the state legislature that would allow the university to create its own armed police force — something unheard of for a private entity in the state of Maryland. While public opinion and student-led organizing forced the withdrawal of the measure this past spring, Hopkins will almost certainly try again in the next legislative session.
When taking this history into account, Hopkins’ collaboration with ICE is merely another chapter in its long history of militarization. Recent events in this country have uncovered the moral bankruptcy of ICE, the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security. JHU, with only itself to blame, is mixed up in this violent and immoral disorder. Its administrators should be ashamed of themselves.
To begin to rectify its long history of bad decisions, Hopkins should work to cut ties to the Homeland Security and Defense departments. It should drop its ludicrous and unpopular plan to create a private police force. And, as a good first step toward demilitarization, it should immediately terminate all contracts with ICE — and donate the money received from such contracts to Baltimore’s immigration legal defense fund.
The authors are current and former students of Johns Hopkins University. Mira Wattal (email@example.com) and Corey Payne (firstname.lastname@example.org) are students of Johns Hopkins University. Emeline Armitage (email@example.com) is an alumna.