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Corruption Chronicles

To Prioritize Equity DHS Anti-Terrorism Funds go to Groups Devoted to Underserved Populations

To ensure “equity is a key priority,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anti-terrorism program that annually doles out millions of dollars to combat violence in local communities is awarding a substantial chunk of funds to recipients devoted to underserved populations, including a D.C. nonprofit dedicated to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Launched in 2020, the initiative is called Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Program (TVTP) and it has disbursed $70 million to help local communities develop and strengthen the capability to fight violence and terrorism. This year the Biden administration is allocating 41% of $20 million in grants to recipients devoted to underserved populations, compared to 25% last year. Awardees include a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) among seven Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), an organization dedicated to indigenous/Native American persons, a group serving LGBTQIA+, and five that help rural communities.

The focus on minorities (underserved populations) appears to have been inspired by last month’s fatal shooting of three black people in northeastern Florida. The gunman, who killed himself, was a 21-year-old mentally ill man who had previously attempted suicide and stopped taking his psychiatric medications. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas used the shooting to support allocating such a large amount of funds to underserved populations. “As the recent racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville made painfully clear, targeted violence and terrorism can impact any community, anywhere,” Mayorkas said, adding that his agency is “committed to confronting this threat” by funding programs with communities to prevent “such abhorrent targeted acts from occurring.”

Let’s examine where the agency created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack is sending our taxpayer dollars in the name of combatting violence and terrorism. A Washington D.C. group called Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League is getting $530,000 to address the risk of violence and negative mental health outcomes faced by LGBTQ+ youth in Washington D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland. The project will provide in-school support for LGBTQ+ youth, training for school staff and youth service providers, resilience programming for LGBTQ+ youth ages 6-24, and support for parents and caregivers. The D.C. nonprofit claims to empower LGBTQ+ youth in the area through leadership and opportunities to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills and community engagement. The more than half a million dollars will help raise societal awareness by employing a “community-level and behavioral health approach,” according to the TVTP grant document.

Other notable grants will go to the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine which is getting nearly $1 million to also raise societal awareness and create youth resilience programs by partnering with clinicians, researchers and staff to reduce the risk of future violence. The program “will focus on training and capacity building around diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.” Boise State University will receive $265,000 to supplement human rights education for kids and teenagers in underserved, rural communities by improving individuals’ abilities to understand violent content. A Boston organization will receive $1,140,067 to mitigate misogynistic, racially, and ethnically motivated violent extremism among at-risk students. The University of Texas, El Paso is getting nearly $300,000 to create a social media campaign that includes multiple cultures and languages to counter the rise of online radicalization. The University of California, Irvine is receiving almost $700,000 to provide tools and training for elementary, high school and college students to participate in diverse coalitions that reach national audiences to target violence and terrorism. Among the goals is to strengthen diverse civic engagement.

Last year $7 million in anti-terrorism grants went to nonprofits, local governments, and academic institutions to promote media literacy and combat what the Biden administration considers to be “disinformation.” Among the recipients was a center founded by former President Jimmy Carter to implement a “media literacy curriculum” designed to mitigate the harms presented by disinformation. The University of Rhode Island got $701,612 to combat disinformation, conspiracy theories and propaganda and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars received $750,000 to create an “educational digital game” designed to help students understand different strategies used to spread disinformation and combat it at the institutional level. The Uran Rural Action, a group that strives for a “more inclusive democracy” across ideological and racial differences, got $769,190 to create a “Local Prevention Framework.”


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