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Overview:

One of the Department of Homeland Security’s most important operations, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is the second largest law enforcement organization in the US, topped only by the FBI. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country. In the short time it has existed, ICE has been the subject of numerous controversies over its handling of illegal immigrants.

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History:

Immigration first became a political issue in the late 19th Century as waves of European and Asian immigrants flooded into the US. After the Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. To solidify this duty, US officials created the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department in 1891. This office was responsible for admitting, rejecting and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States and for implementing national immigration policy. Legislation in March 1895 upgraded the Office of Immigration to the Bureau of Immigration and changed the agency head’s title from Superintendent to Commissioner-General of Immigration. Also during the 1890s, the legendary immigration station at Ellis Island in New York opened and became the nation’s largest and busiest immigrant-processing center well into the 20th Century.

 
In 1906, Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act which established naturalization procedures that have endured until today. The act encouraged state and local courts to relinquish their jurisdiction over immigrants to federal courts, and it expanded the Bureau of Immigration into the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
Seven years later, in 1913, the Department of Commerce and Labor reorganized into today’s separate cabinet departments, and for a time, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization followed suit, each becoming a separate bureau, one for immigration, one for naturalization.
 
After World War I, immigration into the US again rose, prompting Congress to act once more by instituting the national-origins quota system. Laws passed in 1921 and 1924 limited the numbers of newcomers by assigning a quota to each nationality based upon its representation in previous US census figures. Each year, the State Department issued a limited number of visas; only those immigrants who had obtained them and could present valid visas were permitted entry. Because of the limitations that the quota system imposed on immigration, illegal attempts to enter the US first began to occur. Illegal entries and alien smuggling occurred along land borders, so Congress created the Border Patrol in 1924 within the Immigration Service. Stricter immigration policies coupled with Border Patrol apprehensions resulted in the bureau getting involved in deportations.
 
In 1933, Congress decided to remarry immigration and naturalization into one agency, creating the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). With war brewing in Europe in the 1930s, immigration took on greater importance, especially with fears of fascist spies entering the country. President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the INS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice in 1940. The task of securing American borders against enemy aliens became a key duty of the INS during WWII, causing it to double in size, from approximately 4,000 to 8,000 employees.
 
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in December 1941, national fears about foreign-born citizens and residents erupted. In response, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced thousands of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to live in internment camps. The INS played a role in this forced relocation, setting up internment camps and detention facilities
 
In the post-war era, immigration concerns shifted from those of European descent to those entering the US from Latin America and Asia. In 1965, Congress amended federal immigration law by replacing the national-origins system with a preference system designed to reunite immigrant families and attract skilled workers. Although the number of immigration visas available each year was still limited, Congress continued to pass special legislation, as it did for Indochinese refugees in the post-Vietnam era of the 1970s.
 
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 expanded the INS’s responsibilities, making it more of a modern-day law-enforcement agency. The act charged INS with enforcing sanctions against American employers who hired undocumented aliens. This meant the INS was now investigating, prosecuting and levying fines against corporate and individual employers and deporting aliens found to be working illegally in the US. Also during the 1980s, anti-immigrant movements began to rise, focusing mostly on Hispanic immigration in the American Southwest. This backlash continued into the 1990s with the passage of initiatives in California that sought to ban social services to illegal immigrants and eliminate bilingual education in public schools.
 
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, shifted the immigration debate in a different direction. Upon learning the hijackers of commercial airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were non-US citizens who had slipped into the country despite some of them already being on terrorist “watch lists,” federal officials decided to make dramatic changes in government operations overseeing domestic security and immigration. As part of the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the INS was changed into the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, while the US Customs Service became the US Customs and Border Protection agency. Furthermore, the law enforcement arms of the former INS and Customs Service were folded into the newly created Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to “more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and to protect the United States against terrorist attacks,” according to ICE. Almost overnight, ICE became the second largest law enforcement agency in the country, next to the FBI.
 

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service - Populating a Nation: A History of Immigration and Naturalization

 

more
What it Does:

Part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office represents the second largest law enforcement organization in the US. Only the FBI is bigger. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country.

 
A top priority for ICE is to prevent terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining US military weapons and sensitive technology, including weapons of mass destruction components. ICE’s Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations (ASTI) Unit is responsible for investigating such violations. Through an industry outreach program, “Project Shield America,” the ASTI Unit visits American arms manufacturers and technology companies to educate them about export laws and solicit their assistance in preventing illegal foreign acquisition of their products.
 
ICE is composed of four law enforcement divisions and several support offices:
Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) is responsible for locating illegal immigrants, arresting and deporting them to their home countries. Under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, ICE ended the long-standing practice of “catch and release.” Intended as a cost-savings measure by immigration officials to streamline the deportation process, catch-and-release allowed illegal immigrants seized by immigration authorities to voluntary leave the US and avoid the consequences of deportation, such as being barred from legally re-entering the country for 10 years. All too often, however, illegal immigrants freed under catch-and-release did not leave the US. With heightened concerns over domestic security since 9/11, ICE and DHS decided to take a tougher stance with illegal immigrants by eliminating the choice of voluntary departure. ICE manages 16 detention and processing centers across the country, some of which are operated by private security companies. Large scale efforts to capture illegal immigrants are sometimes given a code name, similar to military operations, such as Operation Return to Sender.
 
Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS) protects US government agencies and employees from criminal and terrorist threats. FPS is responsible for the safety and security of more than 8,800 federal facilities nationwide. Uniformed FPS officers and special agents respond to calls for assistance, conduct investigations, provide crime prevention tips and assist in emergency planning. All federal facilities under FPS control are supposed to receive a thorough building security assessment on a recurring schedule. During this assessment representatives of all agencies in a particular building are interviewed so that FPS can familiarize itself with agency tasks. FPS also gathers intelligence and crime statistics for the area under review. Existing security countermeasures are examined as well and then adjusted if deemed necessary.
 
Office of Intelligence is responsible for collecting, analyzing and sharing strategic and tactical intelligence data for use by ICE and DHS officials. Intelligence officers focus on data and information related to the movement of people, money and materials into, within and out of the United States. On average the Office of Intelligence receives more than 1,800 classified reports or messages a day. Those tips deemed “actionable intelligence” are processed and disseminated to ICE headquarters and field personnel.
 
Office of International Affairs (OIA) is the largest international investigative arm in the Department of Homeland Security. OIA interacts with the international law enforcement and other government operations while investigating immigration and customs violations, managing the Visa Security Program and the International Visitor’s Program and conducting international training.
 
Office of Investigations (OI) is geared towards threats deemed to be of a “national security” nature. According to ICE, OI investigates issues such as immigration crime, human rights violations, human smuggling, narcotics, weapons and other types of smuggling, financial crimes, cybercrime and export enforcement issues. ICE special agents also conduct investigations aimed at protecting “critical infrastructure industries” that are vulnerable to sabotage, attack or exploitation.
 
Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) is the legal arm of ICE, providing legal advice, training and services to employees and representing the agency and the US government in administrative and federal courts. 
 
Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct involving employees of ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). OPR adjudicates ICE background investigations - but does not actually perform them. Private companies are contracted by ICE to do background checks (see Stakeholders). OPR also issues security clearances for all prospective and current ICE employees and contracted staff. OPR inspects and reviews ICE offices, operations and processes to provide executive management with independent reviews of the agency’s organizational health.
 
Office of Congressional Relations (OCR) represents the lobbying wing of ICE, conducting liaison activities with Congress.

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

According to FedSpending.gov, ICE paid 1,542 private companies more than $1.3 billion for a variety of services and goods in FY 2006. The biggest among these is Akal Security. The second biggest in FY2006 was Blackwater, a controversial firm that has gotten into trouble for its actions in Iraq as part of a contract with the State Department. ICE has contracted with Blackwater for guard and training services - and ironically, ICE has found itself investigating allegations that Blackwater illegally smuggled silencers into Iraq (see Controversies).

 
Of the money spent on contractors by ICE, the largest share went for guard services. ICE uses private security companies to help detain illegal immigrants. According to the Inspector General of DHS (PDF), ICE has used private firms to run detention centers in Aurora, CO; Houston and Laredo, TX: Seattle, WA; Elizabeth, NJ; Queens, NY; and San Diego, CA. One company that has run multiple detention facilities for ICE is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest owner and operator of privatized prisons and the largest prison operator in the US behind only the federal government and three states. CCA has operated the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX—which was sued by the ACLU over its treatment of illegal immigrant families (see Controversies).
 
ICE also has used the GEO Group, another private prison operator, to manage the Migrant Operations Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The center houses undocumented aliens who are interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region.
When it comes to conducting background checks of new ICE employees, ICE uses Kroll, a leading risk consulting firm, which was awarded a $30 million contract to investigate current and prospective employees and contractors. Kroll has been performing background investigations for ICE since January 2006.
 

SRA International, a provider of technology and strategic consulting services, was awarded a

XX$17.9 million multi-year contractXX

by ICE to not only provide information technology support but also help ICE with its intelligence gathering. According to SRA, the company provided ICE’s Office of Investigations with “a professional services staff augmentation team of IT professionals, investigative research assistants and intelligence officers.” The SRA investigative support team was given access to DHS and ICE computer systems to help “identify and provide critical information about individuals who pose a national security or public safety threat.”

 

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Controversies:

Immigration Detainment Controversies

ICE has endured numerous complaints about its immigration operations. For starters, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued ICE over the running of the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the center was designed to house illegal immigrant families awaiting deportment.
 
The ACLU filed a lawsuit contending that children at the facility were being denied certain rights as provided under Flores v. Meese. Attorneys for the ACLU reached a settlement with ICE (PDF) which agreed to implement a long list of changes in how the center is run.
           
The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security faulted ICE’s system for tracking immigrant detainees. A November 2006 report found that immigration officers were slow to log detainee information into ICE’s computers, making it difficult for the public to locate family or friends being held. In addition, the IG discovered that ICE detention centers did not have a uniform policy for releasing information about detainees. Failures to update computer records in a timely manner also resulted in ICE overpaying private contractors for detainees who had been released.
 
In January 2008, McClatchy newspapers reported several examples of American citizens being detained by ICE and threatened with deportment. One such incident involved a man born and raised in the US who was labeled an illegal immigrant from Russia by immigration officials. The man was held for weeks in a detention facility in Arizona before ICE realized the mistake and set him free.
 
According to one investigation, more than 100 people held in immigration detention centers across the nation had valid US citizenship claims.
 
More than 100 employees of a Los Angeles manufacturing company claimed they were illegally detained by ICE agents during a February 2008 raid. One hundred and thirty eight people were arrested at Micro Solutions Enterprises on charges of immigration violations and other crimes. But another 114 workers - all US citizens or legal permanent residents—were forced to show proof of legal residency during the four-hour raid and were subjected to verbal abuse by ICE agents. The workers filed a complaint with DHS and sought monetary rewards because of ICE actions during the raid.
 
ICE’s Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, CA, was the site of a riot involving hundreds of immigrant detainees in April 2008. The riot started when members of rival gangs began fighting, causing the violence to spread to other parts of the detention center, which houses 900 prisoners.
 
Guards were forced to use tear gas to stop the riot. Ten detainees were treated for injuries, including two who suffered serious head injuries.
 
Efforts by ICE to speed up the deportation of illegal immigrants have not always been successful. In Virginia, officials implemented one of the nation’s toughest policies for rounding up illegal immigrants in Prince William County. ICE had agreed to pick up detainees from county jail within 72 hours of being convicted of a crime and deport them. But instead ICE officers were taking weeks to show up.
 
The delay created additional stress on the already overcrowded jail and cost the county $3 million in extra transportation and processing costs. Legal residents had to be shipped to other detention centers in the state, making it more difficult for family members and attorneys to visit.
 
After complaints were filed by local officials, ICE agreed to begin making twice-a-week pickups from the county’s largest jail.
 
Immigrant Deaths in Custody
Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody (by Nina Bernstein, New York Times)
 
ICE Investigating Own Contractor
In 2007 ICE was told along with other federal agencies to look into allegations that private security firm Blackwater USA had illegally smuggled silencers out of the US and into Iraq and other countries. In addition to ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the State Department and the Commerce Department were investigating whether the company exported the sound suppressors without getting necessary export approval.
 
The investigation was part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations allegedly committed by Blackwater. According to FedSpending.gov, ICE paid Blackwater more than $73 million in FY 2006 for a variety of security services.
 
Getting Tough on Illegals

Enforcement of Steroids: Homelands Security’s Emerging Police State (by Joshua Holland, AlterNet)

 

 

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See all 17 comments

Comments

KATRINA RAMIREZ 4 weeks ago
I am an American Citizen and would like to say that the people (who ever they are) that come here illegally are breaking the law. I can't believe that the illegals are more protection then US Citizen. I am a mother and with a child, that a I have been treated as if I was the criminal instead of the falther who has worked without paper, has lied to the child support agency and ICE has help Edwin G Perez with his residents after breaking and disrespecting the US. I feel that Americans born here that we are the illegals.
Rhonda Good 2 months ago
I am an American Citizen and would like to say that the people (who ever they are) that come here illegally are breaking the law. If they wish to come to the United States there are procedures in place to do just that. Just because they want to come here does not mean that it is in the best interest of our country. If the illegal aliens break laws to get here why should we believe they will not break other laws to gain whatever else they may desire but don't want to wait or do the paperwork or... We have millions of unemployed American citizens and we have millions of Americans on Medicaid and other programs. if we did not have millions of illegal aliens here the number of persons receiving government monies would diminish. We should stop all immigration until we get our fiscal house in order or we will not be able to help anyone.
Judi 2 months ago
My niece married man from El Salvador. He came here illegally years ago in the trunk of a car and is not a citizen. He is the worst husband and father. Lazy, expects to be supported while he acts like a single man. Our family cannot seem to get rid of him. He cannot hold down a job for very long. He has also been denied citizenship and does not have a green card. This is a person that should be deported and the government leaves him alone and allows him to stay. There is something wrong with this system.
jennifer 11 months ago
i am an U.S citizen and i am ashamed to be an american now that i know how the immigration process works. its unbelievable how america treats any illegal just because they were not born here..they are human beings and america treats them like trash.i use to think the same way as america until at age 40 when i fell in love with one..i never cared about what was going on with immigration laws before..didnt even know them until now..and its an outrage and horrible how this country works and how unhuman america is..i will continue to fight for my fiance.but america really needs to evaluate theirselves and their morales as a human being under god.
valerie rodriguez 1 year ago
My husband was deported 3 years ago, he lived in the US for 35 years worked at Disney, and never missed a days work...although, you deported him for things in 1964, his case kept getting post poned for years, he was a goos man , changed his life, and helped me take care of my father how is a 82nd Airbourne military hero, who is terminal, and was his best friend, Justo hung himself last month on a mango tree, because he couldn't help me with my dying father....it is ashame that people do change and the crime was so small..all because the judge was having a bad day . Justo family was 3 minutes late to testify and the judge was upset...I need to obtain his death certificate here in florida, can you help me, please... I just wish our system was human and justice for all...God Bless his Soul....
Jda 1 year ago
How did ice become the 2nd largest branch of enforcement when they don't enforce 1/1000th of them they need to our country is falling apart due to illegals with fake documents taking our jobs and killing our wages then they send the money out of the country is your agency going to do anything to check immigrants and help save our country deporting rapists or murderers is great but what about the 1's raping and murdering our country this really needs to be pushed on how serious this issue is even our poverty is losing because they swim over and have 20 kids and don't work or they do the same but work and have 20 of them living in 1 little apartment sending thousands of tax dollars out of the country pretty soon our dollar will be worth a peso there's no way ice can make teams up throughout the country to stop this or are we going to keep letting it slide and using the extra money for our country on gold toilets for polotitions??? Save our country don't turn your head you all swore to protect our country so why not do it??? Someone please inform me how this can continue to be ignored???
Yong Choon Hiung 1 year ago
I'm Yong here,I want to know how can I detect my chinese wife(Jiang Xiao Hong.China Passport No:G45467843)She went back to Jilin,china on February 2013 and never come back to sarawak till now and I have no news from her since 3 months ago.Even her family also cannot contact.I heard from rumours saying that she is overseas but which country I dont know.Can you please help me find where is she/or is she still in china.HOPE you can help me ..TQ
Juan perez 1 year ago
My name I juan perez I'm a us citizen born and raised in the United States live in Boston mass quiet frankly disappointed in how the law help undocumented people by providing help to them with food stamps welfare and all benefits a resident and a citizen should have . I don't understand how they let undocumented use somebody else's identity social security a false name just to avoid deportation .and the law doesn't do anything about this I've done reports but nothing has been done the law should be fair to every1 equally .
Visal thong 2 years ago
i want to know volunteers deportation. can you help me please, and any new laws on immigration. i really appreciated, thank you.
nadine wright 2 years ago
first of all people make mistake that what happens in life. weather you are american citizen are from another country. now punishing a person for a misdemeanor charge from way pass adams should be unlawful. what about people who contribute to their social security that work and get there life on track do they get the opportunity of get back some or most of there money that they put into this country. let be fair about these think i pay taxes it came up to 25,000 dollar now say i wor...

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Founded: 2003
Annual Budget: $5 billion
Employees: 15,000+
Official Website: http://www.ice.gov/
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Morton, John
Previous Assistant Secretary

Sworn in as the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on May 14, 2009, John T. Morton is a marked contrast to the last person to hold the post, President Bush’s appointee, Julie Myers. Myers was well-connected, but had little experience. Morton, on the other hand, is a low-key career federal prosecutor who has handled immigration crime, and has quietly worked for the past 15 years for the Department of Justice (DOJ), helping develop policies attacking human smuggling and passport and visa fraud.

 
Morton began his career as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s honors program in 1994, serving for two and a half years as counsel to the Deputy Attorney General and focusing primarily on immigration matters.
 
From 1999 to 2006, Morton was as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Major Crimes and Terrorism Units of the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Morton led the effort to crack down on Virginia’s flourishing fake ID industry, prosecuted an illegal Salvadoran immigrant who falsely certified two of the 9/11 hijackers as Virginia residents. In 2002, Morton coordinated the airport busts of nearly 100 people who lied on their applications to get security badges for restricted parts of Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports.
 
In 2005, Morton was one of several prosecuting attorneys who handled federal indictments stemming from “Operation Jakarta,” a two-year, ICE-led Eastern District Fraud Task Force investigation into the illegal practices of Indonesian immigration brokers and consultants operating in Northern Virginia and Maryland.
 
The investigation revealed that the defendants aided thousands of Indonesian aliens living throughout the United States to apply by fraud for a wide variety of government benefits through alien labor certification, Virginia driver’s licenses and identification cards, US passports, and Social Security cards. The government alleged that the principal frauds pursued by the defendants were asylum fraud, labor certification fraud and identification document fraud.
 
Morton later became Deputy Chief of the Domestic Security Section at DOJ, and from September 2007 to January 2009, he was acting chief of the Domestic Security Section and senior counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. In these roles, he was responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases and the development of DOJ policy in the areas of immigration crime, particularly human smuggling and complex passport and visa frauds; human rights offenses, particularly torture, war crimes, genocide, and the use of child soldiers; and international violent crime, particularly violent crime under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.
 
Immigration leadership takes shape at Homeland Security (by Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive)
Career prosecutor to lead immigration agency (by Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press)
more
Myers, Julie
Previous Assistant Secretary
A native of Shawnee, KS, Julie L. Myers served as the assistant secretary of homeland security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement from January 2006 (although she was not confirmed until December 19, 2007) until Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Myers earned a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University and became an attorney following graduation from Cornell Law School. She clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.
 
Myers was an associate at the law firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago, IL, before becoming an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. There, she prosecuted criminal cases that included narcotics violations, financial crimes, immigration violations, securities fraud and other white collar criminal cases.
 
Myers later served as deputy assistant secretary for money laundering and financial crimes at the Treasury Department, chief of staff for the criminal division at the Department of Justice and assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Department of Commerce.
 
When President Bush first installed Myers as head of ICE, the move was done as a recess appointment which avoided Congressional approval. Some observers believed the President did this because Myers might not have survived the confirmation process. Both Democrats and Republicans contended Myers did not have the law enforcement credentials or experience to run the second largest police operation in the country.
 
Furthermore, some argued Myers received the post because of her connections, not her qualifications. She is the niece of General Richard B. Myers, US Air Force, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal military advisor to President Bush. Also, she is married to John F. Wood, chief of staff for Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, whom Myers worked for when she was at Justice.
 
After taking over ICE, Myers embarrassed herself by participating in the judging of a DHS Halloween costume contest during which an employee dressed in prison stripes, dreadlocks and dark makeup won for “most original costume.” Myers was part of a three-judge panel that lauded the costume, worn by a white employee. She also posed for a photo with the winner.
 
Once the incident became public, Myers issued an apology to department employees, saying some costumes were found to be offensive. She then called the National Association of African Americans in DHS to inform the group of what had happened.
 
After leaving office, Myers became president of Immigration & Customs Solutions, a consutling firm based in Evanston, Ill. that helps companies comply with immigration laws.
 
 
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

One of the Department of Homeland Security’s most important operations, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is the second largest law enforcement organization in the US, topped only by the FBI. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country. In the short time it has existed, ICE has been the subject of numerous controversies over its handling of illegal immigrants.

more
History:

Immigration first became a political issue in the late 19th Century as waves of European and Asian immigrants flooded into the US. After the Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. To solidify this duty, US officials created the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department in 1891. This office was responsible for admitting, rejecting and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States and for implementing national immigration policy. Legislation in March 1895 upgraded the Office of Immigration to the Bureau of Immigration and changed the agency head’s title from Superintendent to Commissioner-General of Immigration. Also during the 1890s, the legendary immigration station at Ellis Island in New York opened and became the nation’s largest and busiest immigrant-processing center well into the 20th Century.

 
In 1906, Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act which established naturalization procedures that have endured until today. The act encouraged state and local courts to relinquish their jurisdiction over immigrants to federal courts, and it expanded the Bureau of Immigration into the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
Seven years later, in 1913, the Department of Commerce and Labor reorganized into today’s separate cabinet departments, and for a time, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization followed suit, each becoming a separate bureau, one for immigration, one for naturalization.
 
After World War I, immigration into the US again rose, prompting Congress to act once more by instituting the national-origins quota system. Laws passed in 1921 and 1924 limited the numbers of newcomers by assigning a quota to each nationality based upon its representation in previous US census figures. Each year, the State Department issued a limited number of visas; only those immigrants who had obtained them and could present valid visas were permitted entry. Because of the limitations that the quota system imposed on immigration, illegal attempts to enter the US first began to occur. Illegal entries and alien smuggling occurred along land borders, so Congress created the Border Patrol in 1924 within the Immigration Service. Stricter immigration policies coupled with Border Patrol apprehensions resulted in the bureau getting involved in deportations.
 
In 1933, Congress decided to remarry immigration and naturalization into one agency, creating the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). With war brewing in Europe in the 1930s, immigration took on greater importance, especially with fears of fascist spies entering the country. President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the INS from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice in 1940. The task of securing American borders against enemy aliens became a key duty of the INS during WWII, causing it to double in size, from approximately 4,000 to 8,000 employees.
 
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in December 1941, national fears about foreign-born citizens and residents erupted. In response, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced thousands of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to live in internment camps. The INS played a role in this forced relocation, setting up internment camps and detention facilities
 
In the post-war era, immigration concerns shifted from those of European descent to those entering the US from Latin America and Asia. In 1965, Congress amended federal immigration law by replacing the national-origins system with a preference system designed to reunite immigrant families and attract skilled workers. Although the number of immigration visas available each year was still limited, Congress continued to pass special legislation, as it did for Indochinese refugees in the post-Vietnam era of the 1970s.
 
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 expanded the INS’s responsibilities, making it more of a modern-day law-enforcement agency. The act charged INS with enforcing sanctions against American employers who hired undocumented aliens. This meant the INS was now investigating, prosecuting and levying fines against corporate and individual employers and deporting aliens found to be working illegally in the US. Also during the 1980s, anti-immigrant movements began to rise, focusing mostly on Hispanic immigration in the American Southwest. This backlash continued into the 1990s with the passage of initiatives in California that sought to ban social services to illegal immigrants and eliminate bilingual education in public schools.
 
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, shifted the immigration debate in a different direction. Upon learning the hijackers of commercial airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were non-US citizens who had slipped into the country despite some of them already being on terrorist “watch lists,” federal officials decided to make dramatic changes in government operations overseeing domestic security and immigration. As part of the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the INS was changed into the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, while the US Customs Service became the US Customs and Border Protection agency. Furthermore, the law enforcement arms of the former INS and Customs Service were folded into the newly created Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to “more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and to protect the United States against terrorist attacks,” according to ICE. Almost overnight, ICE became the second largest law enforcement agency in the country, next to the FBI.
 

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service - Populating a Nation: A History of Immigration and Naturalization

 

more
What it Does:

Part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office represents the second largest law enforcement organization in the US. Only the FBI is bigger. ICE enforces both immigration and customs laws, which involves going after illegal immigrants in US territory, employers who hire illegal immigrants and those trying to smuggle goods or contraband into the country.

 
A top priority for ICE is to prevent terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining US military weapons and sensitive technology, including weapons of mass destruction components. ICE’s Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations (ASTI) Unit is responsible for investigating such violations. Through an industry outreach program, “Project Shield America,” the ASTI Unit visits American arms manufacturers and technology companies to educate them about export laws and solicit their assistance in preventing illegal foreign acquisition of their products.
 
ICE is composed of four law enforcement divisions and several support offices:
Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) is responsible for locating illegal immigrants, arresting and deporting them to their home countries. Under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, ICE ended the long-standing practice of “catch and release.” Intended as a cost-savings measure by immigration officials to streamline the deportation process, catch-and-release allowed illegal immigrants seized by immigration authorities to voluntary leave the US and avoid the consequences of deportation, such as being barred from legally re-entering the country for 10 years. All too often, however, illegal immigrants freed under catch-and-release did not leave the US. With heightened concerns over domestic security since 9/11, ICE and DHS decided to take a tougher stance with illegal immigrants by eliminating the choice of voluntary departure. ICE manages 16 detention and processing centers across the country, some of which are operated by private security companies. Large scale efforts to capture illegal immigrants are sometimes given a code name, similar to military operations, such as Operation Return to Sender.
 
Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS) protects US government agencies and employees from criminal and terrorist threats. FPS is responsible for the safety and security of more than 8,800 federal facilities nationwide. Uniformed FPS officers and special agents respond to calls for assistance, conduct investigations, provide crime prevention tips and assist in emergency planning. All federal facilities under FPS control are supposed to receive a thorough building security assessment on a recurring schedule. During this assessment representatives of all agencies in a particular building are interviewed so that FPS can familiarize itself with agency tasks. FPS also gathers intelligence and crime statistics for the area under review. Existing security countermeasures are examined as well and then adjusted if deemed necessary.
 
Office of Intelligence is responsible for collecting, analyzing and sharing strategic and tactical intelligence data for use by ICE and DHS officials. Intelligence officers focus on data and information related to the movement of people, money and materials into, within and out of the United States. On average the Office of Intelligence receives more than 1,800 classified reports or messages a day. Those tips deemed “actionable intelligence” are processed and disseminated to ICE headquarters and field personnel.
 
Office of International Affairs (OIA) is the largest international investigative arm in the Department of Homeland Security. OIA interacts with the international law enforcement and other government operations while investigating immigration and customs violations, managing the Visa Security Program and the International Visitor’s Program and conducting international training.
 
Office of Investigations (OI) is geared towards threats deemed to be of a “national security” nature. According to ICE, OI investigates issues such as immigration crime, human rights violations, human smuggling, narcotics, weapons and other types of smuggling, financial crimes, cybercrime and export enforcement issues. ICE special agents also conduct investigations aimed at protecting “critical infrastructure industries” that are vulnerable to sabotage, attack or exploitation.
 
Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) is the legal arm of ICE, providing legal advice, training and services to employees and representing the agency and the US government in administrative and federal courts. 
 
Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct involving employees of ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). OPR adjudicates ICE background investigations - but does not actually perform them. Private companies are contracted by ICE to do background checks (see Stakeholders). OPR also issues security clearances for all prospective and current ICE employees and contracted staff. OPR inspects and reviews ICE offices, operations and processes to provide executive management with independent reviews of the agency’s organizational health.
 
Office of Congressional Relations (OCR) represents the lobbying wing of ICE, conducting liaison activities with Congress.

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

According to FedSpending.gov, ICE paid 1,542 private companies more than $1.3 billion for a variety of services and goods in FY 2006. The biggest among these is Akal Security. The second biggest in FY2006 was Blackwater, a controversial firm that has gotten into trouble for its actions in Iraq as part of a contract with the State Department. ICE has contracted with Blackwater for guard and training services - and ironically, ICE has found itself investigating allegations that Blackwater illegally smuggled silencers into Iraq (see Controversies).

 
Of the money spent on contractors by ICE, the largest share went for guard services. ICE uses private security companies to help detain illegal immigrants. According to the Inspector General of DHS (PDF), ICE has used private firms to run detention centers in Aurora, CO; Houston and Laredo, TX: Seattle, WA; Elizabeth, NJ; Queens, NY; and San Diego, CA. One company that has run multiple detention facilities for ICE is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest owner and operator of privatized prisons and the largest prison operator in the US behind only the federal government and three states. CCA has operated the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX—which was sued by the ACLU over its treatment of illegal immigrant families (see Controversies).
 
ICE also has used the GEO Group, another private prison operator, to manage the Migrant Operations Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The center houses undocumented aliens who are interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region.
When it comes to conducting background checks of new ICE employees, ICE uses Kroll, a leading risk consulting firm, which was awarded a $30 million contract to investigate current and prospective employees and contractors. Kroll has been performing background investigations for ICE since January 2006.
 

SRA International, a provider of technology and strategic consulting services, was awarded a

XX$17.9 million multi-year contractXX

by ICE to not only provide information technology support but also help ICE with its intelligence gathering. According to SRA, the company provided ICE’s Office of Investigations with “a professional services staff augmentation team of IT professionals, investigative research assistants and intelligence officers.” The SRA investigative support team was given access to DHS and ICE computer systems to help “identify and provide critical information about individuals who pose a national security or public safety threat.”

 

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Controversies:

Immigration Detainment Controversies

ICE has endured numerous complaints about its immigration operations. For starters, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued ICE over the running of the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the center was designed to house illegal immigrant families awaiting deportment.
 
The ACLU filed a lawsuit contending that children at the facility were being denied certain rights as provided under Flores v. Meese. Attorneys for the ACLU reached a settlement with ICE (PDF) which agreed to implement a long list of changes in how the center is run.
           
The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security faulted ICE’s system for tracking immigrant detainees. A November 2006 report found that immigration officers were slow to log detainee information into ICE’s computers, making it difficult for the public to locate family or friends being held. In addition, the IG discovered that ICE detention centers did not have a uniform policy for releasing information about detainees. Failures to update computer records in a timely manner also resulted in ICE overpaying private contractors for detainees who had been released.
 
In January 2008, McClatchy newspapers reported several examples of American citizens being detained by ICE and threatened with deportment. One such incident involved a man born and raised in the US who was labeled an illegal immigrant from Russia by immigration officials. The man was held for weeks in a detention facility in Arizona before ICE realized the mistake and set him free.
 
According to one investigation, more than 100 people held in immigration detention centers across the nation had valid US citizenship claims.
 
More than 100 employees of a Los Angeles manufacturing company claimed they were illegally detained by ICE agents during a February 2008 raid. One hundred and thirty eight people were arrested at Micro Solutions Enterprises on charges of immigration violations and other crimes. But another 114 workers - all US citizens or legal permanent residents—were forced to show proof of legal residency during the four-hour raid and were subjected to verbal abuse by ICE agents. The workers filed a complaint with DHS and sought monetary rewards because of ICE actions during the raid.
 
ICE’s Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, CA, was the site of a riot involving hundreds of immigrant detainees in April 2008. The riot started when members of rival gangs began fighting, causing the violence to spread to other parts of the detention center, which houses 900 prisoners.
 
Guards were forced to use tear gas to stop the riot. Ten detainees were treated for injuries, including two who suffered serious head injuries.
 
Efforts by ICE to speed up the deportation of illegal immigrants have not always been successful. In Virginia, officials implemented one of the nation’s toughest policies for rounding up illegal immigrants in Prince William County. ICE had agreed to pick up detainees from county jail within 72 hours of being convicted of a crime and deport them. But instead ICE officers were taking weeks to show up.
 
The delay created additional stress on the already overcrowded jail and cost the county $3 million in extra transportation and processing costs. Legal residents had to be shipped to other detention centers in the state, making it more difficult for family members and attorneys to visit.
 
After complaints were filed by local officials, ICE agreed to begin making twice-a-week pickups from the county’s largest jail.
 
Immigrant Deaths in Custody
Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody (by Nina Bernstein, New York Times)
 
ICE Investigating Own Contractor
In 2007 ICE was told along with other federal agencies to look into allegations that private security firm Blackwater USA had illegally smuggled silencers out of the US and into Iraq and other countries. In addition to ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the State Department and the Commerce Department were investigating whether the company exported the sound suppressors without getting necessary export approval.
 
The investigation was part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations allegedly committed by Blackwater. According to FedSpending.gov, ICE paid Blackwater more than $73 million in FY 2006 for a variety of security services.
 
Getting Tough on Illegals

Enforcement of Steroids: Homelands Security’s Emerging Police State (by Joshua Holland, AlterNet)

 

 

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Comments

KATRINA RAMIREZ 4 weeks ago
I am an American Citizen and would like to say that the people (who ever they are) that come here illegally are breaking the law. I can't believe that the illegals are more protection then US Citizen. I am a mother and with a child, that a I have been treated as if I was the criminal instead of the falther who has worked without paper, has lied to the child support agency and ICE has help Edwin G Perez with his residents after breaking and disrespecting the US. I feel that Americans born here that we are the illegals.
Rhonda Good 2 months ago
I am an American Citizen and would like to say that the people (who ever they are) that come here illegally are breaking the law. If they wish to come to the United States there are procedures in place to do just that. Just because they want to come here does not mean that it is in the best interest of our country. If the illegal aliens break laws to get here why should we believe they will not break other laws to gain whatever else they may desire but don't want to wait or do the paperwork or... We have millions of unemployed American citizens and we have millions of Americans on Medicaid and other programs. if we did not have millions of illegal aliens here the number of persons receiving government monies would diminish. We should stop all immigration until we get our fiscal house in order or we will not be able to help anyone.
Judi 2 months ago
My niece married man from El Salvador. He came here illegally years ago in the trunk of a car and is not a citizen. He is the worst husband and father. Lazy, expects to be supported while he acts like a single man. Our family cannot seem to get rid of him. He cannot hold down a job for very long. He has also been denied citizenship and does not have a green card. This is a person that should be deported and the government leaves him alone and allows him to stay. There is something wrong with this system.
jennifer 11 months ago
i am an U.S citizen and i am ashamed to be an american now that i know how the immigration process works. its unbelievable how america treats any illegal just because they were not born here..they are human beings and america treats them like trash.i use to think the same way as america until at age 40 when i fell in love with one..i never cared about what was going on with immigration laws before..didnt even know them until now..and its an outrage and horrible how this country works and how unhuman america is..i will continue to fight for my fiance.but america really needs to evaluate theirselves and their morales as a human being under god.
valerie rodriguez 1 year ago
My husband was deported 3 years ago, he lived in the US for 35 years worked at Disney, and never missed a days work...although, you deported him for things in 1964, his case kept getting post poned for years, he was a goos man , changed his life, and helped me take care of my father how is a 82nd Airbourne military hero, who is terminal, and was his best friend, Justo hung himself last month on a mango tree, because he couldn't help me with my dying father....it is ashame that people do change and the crime was so small..all because the judge was having a bad day . Justo family was 3 minutes late to testify and the judge was upset...I need to obtain his death certificate here in florida, can you help me, please... I just wish our system was human and justice for all...God Bless his Soul....
Jda 1 year ago
How did ice become the 2nd largest branch of enforcement when they don't enforce 1/1000th of them they need to our country is falling apart due to illegals with fake documents taking our jobs and killing our wages then they send the money out of the country is your agency going to do anything to check immigrants and help save our country deporting rapists or murderers is great but what about the 1's raping and murdering our country this really needs to be pushed on how serious this issue is even our poverty is losing because they swim over and have 20 kids and don't work or they do the same but work and have 20 of them living in 1 little apartment sending thousands of tax dollars out of the country pretty soon our dollar will be worth a peso there's no way ice can make teams up throughout the country to stop this or are we going to keep letting it slide and using the extra money for our country on gold toilets for polotitions??? Save our country don't turn your head you all swore to protect our country so why not do it??? Someone please inform me how this can continue to be ignored???
Yong Choon Hiung 1 year ago
I'm Yong here,I want to know how can I detect my chinese wife(Jiang Xiao Hong.China Passport No:G45467843)She went back to Jilin,china on February 2013 and never come back to sarawak till now and I have no news from her since 3 months ago.Even her family also cannot contact.I heard from rumours saying that she is overseas but which country I dont know.Can you please help me find where is she/or is she still in china.HOPE you can help me ..TQ
Juan perez 1 year ago
My name I juan perez I'm a us citizen born and raised in the United States live in Boston mass quiet frankly disappointed in how the law help undocumented people by providing help to them with food stamps welfare and all benefits a resident and a citizen should have . I don't understand how they let undocumented use somebody else's identity social security a false name just to avoid deportation .and the law doesn't do anything about this I've done reports but nothing has been done the law should be fair to every1 equally .
Visal thong 2 years ago
i want to know volunteers deportation. can you help me please, and any new laws on immigration. i really appreciated, thank you.
nadine wright 2 years ago
first of all people make mistake that what happens in life. weather you are american citizen are from another country. now punishing a person for a misdemeanor charge from way pass adams should be unlawful. what about people who contribute to their social security that work and get there life on track do they get the opportunity of get back some or most of there money that they put into this country. let be fair about these think i pay taxes it came up to 25,000 dollar now say i wor...

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Founded: 2003
Annual Budget: $5 billion
Employees: 15,000+
Official Website: http://www.ice.gov/
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Morton, John
Previous Assistant Secretary

Sworn in as the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on May 14, 2009, John T. Morton is a marked contrast to the last person to hold the post, President Bush’s appointee, Julie Myers. Myers was well-connected, but had little experience. Morton, on the other hand, is a low-key career federal prosecutor who has handled immigration crime, and has quietly worked for the past 15 years for the Department of Justice (DOJ), helping develop policies attacking human smuggling and passport and visa fraud.

 
Morton began his career as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s honors program in 1994, serving for two and a half years as counsel to the Deputy Attorney General and focusing primarily on immigration matters.
 
From 1999 to 2006, Morton was as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Major Crimes and Terrorism Units of the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Morton led the effort to crack down on Virginia’s flourishing fake ID industry, prosecuted an illegal Salvadoran immigrant who falsely certified two of the 9/11 hijackers as Virginia residents. In 2002, Morton coordinated the airport busts of nearly 100 people who lied on their applications to get security badges for restricted parts of Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports.
 
In 2005, Morton was one of several prosecuting attorneys who handled federal indictments stemming from “Operation Jakarta,” a two-year, ICE-led Eastern District Fraud Task Force investigation into the illegal practices of Indonesian immigration brokers and consultants operating in Northern Virginia and Maryland.
 
The investigation revealed that the defendants aided thousands of Indonesian aliens living throughout the United States to apply by fraud for a wide variety of government benefits through alien labor certification, Virginia driver’s licenses and identification cards, US passports, and Social Security cards. The government alleged that the principal frauds pursued by the defendants were asylum fraud, labor certification fraud and identification document fraud.
 
Morton later became Deputy Chief of the Domestic Security Section at DOJ, and from September 2007 to January 2009, he was acting chief of the Domestic Security Section and senior counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. In these roles, he was responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases and the development of DOJ policy in the areas of immigration crime, particularly human smuggling and complex passport and visa frauds; human rights offenses, particularly torture, war crimes, genocide, and the use of child soldiers; and international violent crime, particularly violent crime under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.
 
Immigration leadership takes shape at Homeland Security (by Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive)
Career prosecutor to lead immigration agency (by Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press)
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Myers, Julie
Previous Assistant Secretary
A native of Shawnee, KS, Julie L. Myers served as the assistant secretary of homeland security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement from January 2006 (although she was not confirmed until December 19, 2007) until Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Myers earned a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University and became an attorney following graduation from Cornell Law School. She clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.
 
Myers was an associate at the law firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago, IL, before becoming an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. There, she prosecuted criminal cases that included narcotics violations, financial crimes, immigration violations, securities fraud and other white collar criminal cases.
 
Myers later served as deputy assistant secretary for money laundering and financial crimes at the Treasury Department, chief of staff for the criminal division at the Department of Justice and assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Department of Commerce.
 
When President Bush first installed Myers as head of ICE, the move was done as a recess appointment which avoided Congressional approval. Some observers believed the President did this because Myers might not have survived the confirmation process. Both Democrats and Republicans contended Myers did not have the law enforcement credentials or experience to run the second largest police operation in the country.
 
Furthermore, some argued Myers received the post because of her connections, not her qualifications. She is the niece of General Richard B. Myers, US Air Force, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal military advisor to President Bush. Also, she is married to John F. Wood, chief of staff for Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, whom Myers worked for when she was at Justice.
 
After taking over ICE, Myers embarrassed herself by participating in the judging of a DHS Halloween costume contest during which an employee dressed in prison stripes, dreadlocks and dark makeup won for “most original costume.” Myers was part of a three-judge panel that lauded the costume, worn by a white employee. She also posed for a photo with the winner.
 
Once the incident became public, Myers issued an apology to department employees, saying some costumes were found to be offensive. She then called the National Association of African Americans in DHS to inform the group of what had happened.
 
After leaving office, Myers became president of Immigration & Customs Solutions, a consutling firm based in Evanston, Ill. that helps companies comply with immigration laws.
 
 
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