Report Blasts Immigration Halloween Party

The Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee offered a scathing report Tuesday on the now-infamous Halloween party at Immigration and Customs Enforcement last fall that stirred controversy over race issues at the agency.

The report, entitled "The ICE Halloween Party: Trick, Treat or Coverup?" details how ICE chief Julie Myers was a judge at an employee costume party in which the winning contestant for "most original costume" appeared in a striped prison uniform, wearing a dreadlock wig, and his face darkened with makeup.

The report stopped short of asking for Myers' resignation, but issued several recommendations.

Democrats on the panel urged the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a full investigation into the alleged coverup, and said an independent official should be tasked with evaluating the situation to determine which, if any, laws were violated.

Additionally, the majority called for further evaluation of the employee's actions and whether the incident crated a hostile work environment.

According to the report, when the male employee walked up to the judges' table, where Myers sat, "he stated, 'I'm a Jamaican detainee from [Miami detention facility] Krome, obviously, I've escaped.' The response from the judges was laughter.

"According to interviews with employees who attended the party, several employees were shocked and offended by the costume and some even left immediately after seeing their fellow employee in the costume," the report continued.

Myers admitted in a Nov. 2007 letter to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., that after she realized her error in judgment, she ordered all photos of the event be destroyed and employees to attend sensitivity training. She also issued a public apology for the incident, and the employee who wore the costume was reassigned from headquarters to a field office one week after the party.

A CNN freedom of information request sought to have the agency produce the photos, and technical staff at ICE were able to recover them from the digital media from which they had been deleted. CNN published the photos, launching the congressional inquiry.

ICE spokesperson Kelly Nantel downplayed the report's findings, telling ABC News, "There's nothing new in that report."

She added, "Julie Myers has been 100 percent upfront and honest about the circumstances surrounding the Halloween contest. She accepted full responsibility, has apologized and has moved forward in continuing to run this agency."

But critics on the House Committee on Homeland Security have had past issues with both Myers and the level of diversity at DHS.

The panel's Democrats released a report last month on the lack of diversity among senior staff and officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which noted the absence of racial minority groups among the upper ranks in the department. Additionally, that report found, "the department's headquarters staff was one of the least racially and ethnically diverse components, with only one African American and one Hispanic among its 46 members of the career Senior Executive Service."

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., confronted Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a House Judiciary Committee earlier this spring when he asked him to have his staffers at the hearing stand up, and only white men rose.

Chertoff said, "I wouldn't assume that the ethnic background of everybody behind me is self-evident."

The Democrats also revived their criticism of Myers' appointment in the report released Tuesday, saying it was "controversial from the beginning.

"Several commentators questioned the appropriateness of placing the country's second largest law enforcement agency and the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security into the hands of a then-37-year-old, who did not possess any law enforcement experience," the report said.

Myers was ultimately confirmed as assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Dec. 19, 2007, two years after President Bush nominated her to the post.