At least, that’s what’s alleged in this interview with UCSB professor Jacqueline Stevens:
JUAN GONZALEZ: What about the whole issue of how many of these people are picked up, the question of ICE agents impersonating, in some cases, Mormon missionaries, you write about, or insurance agents. Could you—how does that work?
JACQUELINE STEVENS: OK. So, one consequence of the detention operations and the removal operations moving away from these big workplace raids—that is something that the Obama administration has, you know, dedicated itself to—has been more surreptitious operations, and an increase in those. I mean, these have been going on under the Bush administration, as well, but there’s an impression that there’s been a shift to these more surreptitious operations for targeting people.
And among the operations that I encountered, and ICE calls these “ruse operations”—and just to be clear, under our law, ruse operations, for the most part, are legal. It is legal for, you know, federal agents to impersonate civilians for the purpose of tricking people who they suspect have arrest warrants and so forth in obtaining their custody.
It is not legal for federal agents to impersonate religious workers. And a spokesperson for the ACLU explained why, and I, you know, quote her in the article, but it’s a pretty obvious principle. If religious workers are suspected of being federal agents, then that makes it very difficult for them to fulfill their duties. If it’s part of the Mormon practice to proselytize and a community is suspecting Mormons of being federal agents, then they’ll be hostile to them. And that will, you know, constrict their ability to practice their religion. So that is one operation that ICE has been reported as doing.
The federal government’s response to this was really shocking to me. I sent them a question, and I said, “Is it consistent with ICE policy for ICE agents to impersonate religious workers?” And I would have expected a flat-out “no.” But instead, they explained exactly why and how it was consistent for ICE agents to impersonate religious workers.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And just to be clear, this would be a situation where supposed Mormon missionaries are knocking on doors trying to find out who lives in a particular house or not?
JACQUELINE STEVENS: Right. Well, it’s actually more targeted than that, typically. The ICE agents will suspect that a particular individual who has an outstanding warrant lives in a certain address and want to ascertain the time that that person will be there for purposes of effecting an arrest. And so, you know, they’ll go to any means necessary to try to obtain that information, including impersonating Mormon missionaries.
It’s a pretty alarming interview, in a number of regards.