ICE: The Facts


There has been a lot of controversy surrounding ICE since the Trump administration introduced its “zero-tolerance” policy, which has led to the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents. In response to this, calls to abolish the agency have emerged.

What is ICE?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, is responsible for many things, including investigating the illegal movement of people and goods, enforcing immigration laws, and helping to prevent terrorism. They enforce federal laws, both criminal and civil, that relate to immigration, trade, customs, and border control. ICE was created in 2003 as a branch inside the Department of Homeland Security in response to the September 11th attacks.

Why are there calls to abolish ICE?

As more stories of immigrants being deported surface in the news, the calls to abolish ICE have grown louder. The claims that ICE is separating families at the border have helped spark this movement, but according to the ICE chief, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is the agency that is separating the families. Although ICE may not be to blame for separating families, they have been accused of multiple accounts of abuse. In April, The Intercept published an article about 1,224 complaints of sexual and physical abuse. Many people have started to call for the complete reconstruction of this agency. In an interview by CNN on June 29, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York stated, “I believe that it has become a deportation force and I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues.” She goes on to say that the U.S. should reimagine ICE and replace it with something that works.  

Did ICE agents want to abolish the agency?

While it is true that 19 ICE agents wrote a letter to Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, they did not call to dissolve ICE. In the letter they state, “We propose to restructure ICE into two separate independent entities of HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] and ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations].” They explain in the letter that the two sub-agencies, HSI and ERO, have evolved and become so separate that “ICE’s mission can no longer be described as a singular, synergistic mission.”

How is ICE helpful?

Although ICE has frequently been critiqued, the agency still has many responsibilities.  ICE’s only purpose is not just deporting illegal immigrants; they also help investigate human trafficking, financial crimes, and the smuggling of illegal goods such as firearms and drugs. In congressman Higgins’ speech on the House floor, he states, “Last year alone, ICE arrested more than 127,000 criminal aliens responsible for: 76,000 dangerous drug offenses; 48,000 assault offenses; 11,000 weapons offenses; 5,000 sexual assault offenses; 2,000 kidnapping offenses; 1,800 homicide offenses.” He continues to say that ICE rescued 518 victims of human trafficking and made more than 4,800 gang related arrests.  

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