Government training , included exercise in which employees were told to chant "our forefathers were illegal immigrants."

October 5, 2012

The U.S. government paid a Chicago consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on diversity training workshops that, according to one watchdog, included an exercise in which employees were told to chant "our forefathers were illegal immigrants." 

Conservative group Judicial Watch made the claim this week as it released a handful of documents pertaining to the program -- and alleged that the sessions held by the Department of Agriculture ended up enforcing political views more than promoting tolerance. 

"Instead of being diversity-oriented or tolerance-oriented, it's more about adopting a mindset," said Lisette Garcia, a senior investigator with the group. "It seemed to go so far as to encourage illegal immigration." 

But the USDA denied that the workshop was anything more than a training exercise to "examine stereotypes."

"Participants did not chant during these workshops," a department official said. "In one portion of the session, the presenter had participants repeat provocative and potentially offensive phrases as part of an exercise to examine stereotypes. The statements were not reflective of USDA or its policy."

Judicial Watch began to investigate the sessions earlier this year after being approached by a tipster at USDA who was "offended" by them, Garcia said. Judicial Watch claims it has identified at least $200,000 spent by the USDA over the last two years on the company Souder, Betances & Associates. 

The USDA later confirmed that amount.   

The tipster, Garcia said, described one session in which the speaker led workers in chanting "our forefathers were illegal immigrants" while pounding on the table and getting others in the room to join in. 

"How does that fit into the USDA mission at all?" she said. "The price tag makes it more egregious." 

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