Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an American federal law enforcement agency, largely deals with immigration-related issues within the United States. In fact, there is a common misconception that ICE deals with all immigration issues, although this is not entirely true. If you have questions about immigration law in the United States or about ICE in general, the following is meant to help you understand what ICE’s role is, and what it actually does.
What ICE Actually Does
The Border Patrol, a sister agency to ICE, actually maintains a website designed to answer that question. However, its language is somewhat difficult to parse. There are several subdivisions within ICE itself, the largest of which are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). They are responsible for myriad operations, according to the website.
HSI has a mission statement similar to that of the FBI. Its job is to investigate possible illegal activities, often including those that involve transporting goods and people over the border. HSI is not involved in removal actions themselves, unless it is from the investigative end. It focuses instead on tracking and legwork.
HSI has engaged in other tactics, however, some of which have been relatively controversial. More specifically, another part of its mission is to foster cooperation between local and federal law enforcement agencies to help detain and deport undocumented immigrants. These actions have led to programs under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) that effectively turn local police into immigration officers. This initiative, sometimes known by the shorthand of Secomm or Secured Communities, is highly problematic; it has arguably deterred people from cooperating with law enforcement in other matters. People are far less likely to come forward as witnesses or provide information to police if they believe they or their loved ones’ immigration status will be randomly checked.
ERO is the subsection of ICE that coordinates removal actions and raids, or unannounced inspections. Their mission statement makes clear that their first priority is removing and helping to deport criminals and threats to national security, though they have not been immune to controversy in years past on that score. There have been several complaints of brutality, as well as many recorded instances of ERO mistakes where American citizens were detained.
What ICE Does Not Do
The most important factor to be aware of is that ICE does not collect information from most other federal agencies. For example, there was general unease when the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period began among immigrant families, because many feared that applying for insurance would trigger ICE raids. ICE had to explicitly state that none of the information obtained by the ACA marketplace would trigger any kind of enforcement; to do so would have punished ‘mixed’ families (families with some U.S. citizens and some members out of status) unfairly.
ICE also does not pass any kind of judgment on the people they detain, nor do they have any say in approving or denying legal visa petitions. Immigration judges, who deal with the questions of detainees’ ultimate future, answer to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is a subsidiary of the Justice Department. ICE is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. In terms of legal petitions, those are handled exclusively by United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS).
An Immigration Attorney Can Help
If you are still confused by the acronyms and overlapping agencies, a competent DuPage County immigration attorney should be able to assist. Mevorah Law Offices LLC has a long history of fighting for our clients. Contact our DuPage County, IL office for a free consultation.
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