'Horrified,' She Wrote

Friday, November 9, 2007

Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told a skeptical senator yesterday that she was "shocked and horrified" to discover that she had given an award for costume originality to a man wearing dark makeup and fake dreadlocks and dressed in prison garb.

On Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, sent Myers a letter expressing her "dismay" over the incident at an ICE Halloween party and posing questions about it. Yesterday evening, McCaskill received Myers's three-page reply.

Myers wrote that the costume was "inappropriate" and "could leave a negative impression as to the respect that ICE has for those in our custody."

She noted that the man had not originally been a winner but was added so that "management" party-goers would not be the only employees recognized.

Myers, part of a panel that gave out awards, also noted that the winner was "present at the table for less than half a minute" and the awards were bestowed after just seconds of discussion.

Myers also apologized for other costumes at the party. "I was informed that an ICE employee felt that a particular group dressed as a play on 'Charlie's Angels' was dressed too provocatively," she wrote.

It's not clear whether the letter, or meetings yesterday with committee staffers, will mollify her critics.

"He was dressed in this costume during his entire shift at work all day, which means that in the workplace there wasn't a manager that said, 'You need to change, you need to leave,' " McCaskill said.

-- Rachel Dry

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