Blackface at I.C.E.

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Remember Julie Myers, the then-36-year-old who was nominated to be head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (I.C.E.) back in late 2005 despite having virtually no experience managing a large bureaucracy and little background handling immigration or customs issues? A former federal prosectuor who had worked on Ken Starr’s independent counsel staff when he was investigating Bill Clinton, Myers also happened to be the niece of Air Force General Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the JCS, as well as the new wife of Secretary Michael Chertoff’s chief of staff over at the Department of Homeland Security, of which I.C.E. is a large part.

Well, Myers’ controversial nomination was never confirmed by the Senate, so President Bush recess-appointed her to the post in January 2006 and renominated her again a year later. And now she’s in the news again — for hosting a Halloween party at which some I.C.E. employees apparently wore “offensive” costumes. One employee’s costume was a striped prison outfit, fake dreadlocks and make-up intended to make him appear African-American — i.e., blackface. Myers and two others served as judges on a panel that deemed that man’s costume notable for its “originality”. Later, after some employees complained about being offended, Myers apologized. According to CNN, which got the story last night:

In a November 2 email to ICE employees, Myers wrote, “It is now clear that, however unintended, a few of the costumes were inappropriate and offensive. While we were all thrilled to be a part of the CFC fundraising effort, I and the senior management at ICE deeply regret that this happened.”

Brilliant post-facto clarity on the part of Myers, to whom it apparently didn’t occur right away that the blackface costume might be, um, a bit inappropriate, especially at a party hosted by the head of a massive and diverse federal law enforcement agency!

UPDATE: Just a note to say that Julie Myers, and her many shortcomings, were featured in a major takeout Time did a few weeks after Hurrican Katrina entitled, “How Many Mike Browns Are Out There?” Karen, Mark Thompson and Mike Allen shared top billing on the piece, which took a long and unflattering look at President Bush’s habit of appointing cronies in important posts throughout the federal government.

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