Civics 101: Do you really know ICE?

Hank Hayes • Dec 31, 2018 at 9:00 PM

With the southern border in the news nearly every day, do you really know much about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency?

According to its website, ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

ICE now has more than 20,000 law enforcement and support personnel in more than 400 offices in the United States and around the world.

The agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, primarily devoted to three operational directorates — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA).

A fourth directorate — Management and Administration (M&A) — supports the three operational branches to advance the ICE mission.

The ERO directorate upholds U.S. immigration law at, within and beyond our borders. ERO enforces immigration law against those who present a danger to our national security, are a threat to public safety or who otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration system.

ERO operations target public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have otherwise violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.

ERO manages all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including identification and arrest, domestic transportation, detention, bond management and supervised release, including alternatives to detention. In addition, ERO transports aliens ordered removed from the U.S. to more than 170 countries around the world.

HSI is the principal investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with more than 8,500 employees, including nearly 6,500 special agents and 700 intelligence analysts who are assigned to more than 200 cities throughout the U.S. and more than 60 offices in more than 45 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad. HSI conducts transnational criminal investigations that protect the U.S. against threats to its national security and brings to justice those seeking to exploit U.S. customs and immigration laws worldwide.

HSI has broad legal authority to investigate all types of cross-border criminal activity. This includes smuggling, financial crimes, bulk cash smuggling, cybercrimes, exploitation of children and child sex tourism, weapons smuggling and export enforcement, trade crimes such as commercial fraud and intellectual property theft, human smuggling and trafficking, narcotics smuggling and trafficking, identity and benefit fraud, human rights violations, transnational gang activity, counterterrorism and visa security.

OPLA is the largest legal program within the DHS with more than 1,100 attorneys. Pursuant to statute, OPLA serves as the exclusive representative of the DHS in immigration removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, litigating all removal cases including those against criminal aliens, terrorists and human rights abusers.

OPLA attorneys provide essential support to the Department of Justice in the prosecution of ICE cases and in the defense of ICE’s authorities in federal court.

M&A directs and maintains ICE’s budget, expenditures, accounting and finance, procurement, facilities, property, and policy and privacy programs in full compliance with federal laws, regulations and rules.