Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The purpose of this research paper is to inform those unaware of what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is. This agency was created in 2003 to provide protection and security for the United States and prevent future terrorists acts following 9/11. Many should know the changes made administered by our current and past president and the controversies circling this agency in the recent years as it has made an impact on many families and is going to be a part of our future generations history.



The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a law enforcement agency of the federal government. Beginning in March 2003, one of the integrated agencies in the new Department of Homeland Security was the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. ICE was created to better protect and strengthen public safety following the horrific attacks that occured on 9/11. Being the second-largest agency with 20,000 employees, the primary missions of ICE has been to remove illegal aliens, prevent international terrorists from entering and overall protect the U.

S border from any illegal movements of people or goods. Recently there has been a lot of controversy pertaining to ICE because the media has shed light on family separation, poor detention facility conditions, worksite raids and negative enforcement actions.

Sub-agencies within ICE

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – Homeland Security Investigations is an ‘investigative arm’ of ICE that analyzes criminal movements happening in the United States and around its borders.

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HSI is generally in charge of examining and preventing the illegal movement of money, goods and individuals involved with human trafficking. HSI’s workforce has special agents, analysts, auditors and support staff. The employees are assigned to different cities throughout the United States. HSI’s international force is the department’s largest investigative presence in U.S. law enforcement.

HSI has broad legal authority to enforce a diverse array of federal statutes. It uses this authority to investigate all types of cross-border criminal activity, including: Financial crimes, money laundering and bulk cash smuggling, commercial fraud, human rights violations, human trafficking, immigration document and benefit fraud, drug and weapon smuggling/trafficking, transnational gang activity, export enforcement and, international art and antiquity theft.

Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) – Enforcement Removal Operations division is there to “identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts.” according to ERO is the sub-agency that carries out all the immigration enforcement laws and is the main reason for the controversies presented by media outlets in recent news.

Office of the Principal Legal Adviser and Office of Professional Responsibility – OPLA serves as the representative for any legal cases presented to ICE providing accurate legal advice that supports the agencies overall mission. This sub-agency is the largest legal program in DHS, with over 1,100 attorneys and 350 support personnel. OPR is there to “ensure that DOJ attorneys perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards expected of the nation’s principal law enforcement agency” as said on

Why is ICE so controversial?

The controversies circling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been brought upon because of recent changes made by President Trump. In January of 2017, the president signed and executive order to increase the agency’s staff by 10,000 employees but this increase also expanded the immigration enforcement powers. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, ICE focused on arresting undocumented migrants that had criminal records. Under President Trump, ICE has expanded its focus and has been detaining more undocumented migrants that don’t have criminal records.

During the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, immigration arrests increased by 40 percent in comparison to the same time period in 2016 when Obama was in office. Homeland Security agents have expressed concern that Donald Trump’s plan to remove anyone in the US illegally has made it more difficult for them to direct their attention on important national security issues. Trump signed a few executive orders that shifted immigration policies . The first, was geared towards “border security, he told agencies to build a physical wall “to obtain complete operational control” of the U.S. border that lies with Mexico.

This action called for an end to “catch and release” practices, where certain unauthorized immigrants who were taken at the border would be released into United States custody while awaiting court hearings. This also expanded “expedited removal,” meaning any unauthorized immigrant that could not prove they have been residing in the United States for at least two years can be removed without a court hearing. The second executive order, focused on prioritized for removal and ordered increases in enforcement personnel and removal facilities. The last order, focused on terrorism prevention, banned nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from coming into the United States for ninety days; blocked nationals from Syria indefinitely; and suspended the refugee program for 120 days.

Can ICE be abolished?

In recent news there has been protests against ICE as debates about immigration practices has been causing a lot controversy making many people hate Trump’s administration. Many families have been separated at the border, resulting in kids spending nights without their mothers and fathers in horrible immigrant detention facilities. Many of these protests are calling for an “abolition of the agency” but can ICE really be abolished?

The answer to that question is yes, ICE can be abolished just like any government agency, but it most likely will not be. The ICE initial goal was to protect against terrorists because of 9/11 but it has caused a negative impact by causing distress to families that are coming to the U.S to seek a better life. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will never be abolished but they do need to take reorganization and reestablishment of rules and practices into strong consideration to avoid anymore controversy.


I have found that ICE serves as a great agency that protects the United States from terrorism, illegal money laundering, human trafficking, narcotic smuggling, transnational gang activity, human rights violations and so much more. Up until recent years they have been perceived in a negative light because of the changes implemented by President Donald Trump and his administration. A call for abolition of this agency has been topic of discussion but the agency just needs to organize and reestablish their functions and/or hand off some of their responsibilities to a different agency.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2022, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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