What is ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the single largest agency that falls under the governance of the Department of Homeland Security and is the federal government’s second largest investigative arm. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for the enforcement of more than 400 statutes pertaining to immigration and the traffic of goods across national borders.

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The largest of the organizations within ICE are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement & Removal Operations (ERO).  ICE also manages the Office of State, Local and Tribal Coordination (OSLTC), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

General Role and Scope of ICE

Among its primarily roles, ICE ensures the defense and security of the United States through the identification, investigation, apprehension, prosecution and deportation of foreign nationals that pose a threat of any kind to U.S. national security.  ICE plays a critical role in detecting and preventing terrorist activities, including attack preparations, communications, financial support, and entry to the U.S. The National Security Division of ICE oversees many of the anti-terrorism operations conducted through ICE offices and works closely with other agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has taken a lead position in disrupting and eliminating terrorist cells and networks operating in the country. Using law enforcement tools provided by legislation and executive orders, ICE is able to target criminals and potential terrorists and detain them for prosecution or deportation proceedings.

Recently Implemented ICE Programs

ICE has conducted many high profile operations designed to make communities and the nation safer.  Operation Community Shield targets transnational gang members who lack proper immigration documentation or are currently in the country with limited legal status. ICE also attempts to dismantle gang operations through prosecution and deportation.

Operation Predator is an ICE program that detects and removes child predators.  The Cyber Crimes Section of ICE also conducts investigations into crimes involving foreign nationals and the internet, including intellectual property infringement, improper sale of pharmaceuticals, arms sales, and identity fraud.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Homeland Security Investigations is a directorate within ICE tasked with investigating illegal activities related to the transport of goods and people across U.S. borders. Among its areas of responsibility are narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, cyber-crimes and export screening. HSI employs more than 10,000 employees, including 6,700 special agents.  Within the Homeland Security Investigations directorate are six primary divisions:

  1. Domestic Operations
  2. Intelligence
  3. International Affairs
  4. Mission Support
  5. National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center
  6. National Security Investigations Division

Enforcement and Removal Operations

The Enforcement and Removal Operations division enforces immigration laws, by identifying, detaining and deporting aliens without proper immigration documentation.  Although these laws may be applied to any undocumented immigrant, the ERO prioritizes the apprehension and removal of criminals, fugitives, and individuals with the intent to cause harm to national security.  ERO officials preside over the transport and detention of removable aliens.  They are responsible for conducting and supporting immigration-related law enforcement operations.

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