ICE Is Building 'Hyper-Realistic' Replicas of Arizona Neighborhoods

ICE agents
ICE agents Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is building an "urban warfare" training facility featuring "hyper-realistic" simulations of Arizona neighborhoods at an Army post in Georgia, according to an acquisition form published by the agency on Tuesday.

ICE inadvertently revealed more information about the facility than intended when the agency failed to properly redact the document. Newsweek broke the story on Wednesday after independent journalist Darwin BondGraham shared screenshots and a link to the documents published by ICE on Twitter. Newsweek spotted the agency's latest redaction gaffe by copying and pasting the acquisition form's contents into a word processor.

The form to procure "hyper-realistic training devices" for the agency was published on the Federal Business Opportunities website. ICE is setting up a new training facility at the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs'  Tactical Operations Complex in Fort Benning, Georgia.

"ICE is in the process of expanding its Special Response Teams (SRT) stationed throughout the United States and Puerto Rico," the document states. "These teams require access to hyper-realistic training venues."

Specifically, ICE is seeking to build a training facility that "simulates residential houses, apartment, hotels, government facilities, and commercial buildings" to "emulate structures the teams will encounter across the United States."

ICE wants to spent nearly $1 million to build the "state-of-the-art tactical training facility" and is set on including an "Arizona style replica" facility to train ICE agents and a "Chicago style replica." The simulations are intended to be so realistic that they will mimic details down to "the number of dishes left on the table, toys in the yard, lighting, furniture, etc."

The "replication of battlefield conditions in the training environment" will be used to "minimize risk to our Special Agents, Deportation Officer, and SRT operators during high-risk search and arrest warrants, fugitive operations, undercover operations, hostage rescue, gang operations, etc," documents published by ICE state.

ICE has already selected a vendor — Strategic Operations Inc. — from which to purchase the "hyper-realistic training devices," and is seeking approval to award $961,347 to the company. ICE is constructing 50 additional buildings at Fort Benning and will add "additional U.S. city layouts and designs" later on. For now, it seems Arizona and Chicago are priorities for the agency. 

ICE is spending $355,652 to construct the Arizona replica training facility.

Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, a spokesperson for ICE, sent a statement about its redactions to the document when asked why the agency is interested in simulating the experience of ICE operations in Arizona.

"The location information listed in the previously posted Federal Business Opportunity notice did not need to be redacted," the statement said. "Out of an abundance of caution, ICE decided to redact the location of the training facility. The opportunity notice has been re-posted without the redactions."

ICE removed the document from the Federal Business Opportunities website not long after BondGraham pointed it out. But a Georgia radio station downloaded the document before it was deleted and shared it online.

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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.