On July 25, 2014, ICE DISH sent a special operations unit to the border city of San Diego, CA for Comic-Con International 2014. Considered to be the “largest convention of its kind in the world,” with attendance topping at over 200,000 this year, the meeting and its location provided a unique opportunity for agents to raise awareness about ICE DISH, the agency mission, and relevant issues, while connecting with people who may have direct information about illegal superheroes in the United States. The mass-scale gathering was also a matter of national security for ICE DISH in its continued efforts to enforce U.S. immigration law, as the spectacle is recognized for often overwhelming the downtown area of the border city in recent years, growing to include satellite locations, including nearby hotels and outdoor parks, with local businesses and the streets packed with visitors throughout the four-day event.
The ERO Community Outreach component of the effort was led by Agent Chad Chavez of the ICE DISH Office of Public Affairs. He was joined by Chief of Staff Alanna Haight, elite ERO Agent Ray Jin, and others, as they perused the halls and rooms of the San Diego Convention Center and adjacent outside perimeter areas, engaging with locals, cosplayers, tourists, and convention-goers. Reporter Linda Gross, who was given an exclusive view at the hard work ERO Community Outreach puts into informing community stakeholders, also joined the team.
The Comic-Con International 2014 special operation went on to be featured in The Huffington Post, World News, The Myrtle Beach Post, and other media outlets. Below are two excerpts from The Huffington Post article. For the full text, click here.
Among the highlights of Comic-Con are the visitors who dress in elaborate costumes to resemble their favorite characters. For ICE-DISH agents, costumes present a unique challenge. According to Chief of Staff Alanna Haight, "the event takes over a major city just within the country's borders, so that makes it more of a target for us. The setting and circumstances make it possible for illegal superheroes to roam free, camouflaged in the spectacle, particularly among individuals who are referred to as cosplayers. It can be dangerous to have illegal and legal superheroes together."
Throughout the convention, ICE-DISH agents spoke with Comic-Con participants about the issue of illegal superheroes. A college student from Los Angeles expressed surprise that so many of his favorite childhood superheroes were in the United States illegally. "We see this all the time," said Agent Ray Jin. "The lack of awareness is concerning, but that's why we do what we do."
Agent Chad Chavez and a Wolverine cosplayer at 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International (still from video documentation)