Over the past year, unlawful immigration issues have played a considerable role in the national political conversation. Specifically, President Trump’s immigration policies have spurred protests and adverse reactions throughout the United States. Indeed, immigration was a major talking point of President Trump’s campaign.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is at the heart of the controversy involving President Trump’s immigration policies. Founded in 2003 by President George W. Bush, ICE is a federal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE is responsible for enforcing national immigration policies and countering transnational crime.
ICE Began After the September 11 Terrorist Attacks
The federal government created ICE as a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The September 11 attacks prompted a profound change within the U.S. immigration system. Public demand for retaliation against terrorists who immigrated unlawfully spurred massive changes to U.S. immigration policies. Indeed, the most significant government reorganization since World War II happened after the September 11 attacks. In addition to creating ICE, the government changed immigrant detention policies, increased funding for homeland-security related immigration programs, and increased data collection.
The Department of Homeland Security created ICE in 2003. ICE assumed the functions of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as well as the United States Customs Service (USCS). The INS existed previously under the Justice Department, and the USCS was formerly part of the Treasury Department. ICE is made up of the following three offices:
- The Enforcement and Removal Operations
- Beyond Enforcement and Removal Operations
- The Office of the Principal Legal Adviser
The Enforcement and Removal Operations Division of ICE
The most well-known division of ICE is the Enforcement and Removal Operations. This division is in charge of making arrests of undocumented immigrants. It also detains and deports unauthorized immigrants who are already in the United States. This office has 7,900 full-time employees. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this division also had a $3.8 billion budget in the fiscal year of 2017. During President Obama’s presidency, the Enforcement and Removal Operations division focused on deporting undocumented immigrants suspected of committing serious crimes within the United States. Under President Trump’s presidency, this division has taken a harsher stance. President Trump has directed this division to target all undocumented immigrants who enter the country illegally.
President Trump has promised his supporters that he will deport millions of unlawful immigrants as part of his reelection campaign. ICE currently deports approximately 7,000 deportations each month. Nonetheless, ICE faces a constant shortage of detention beds and funds. The Trump administration has stated that its sweeping deportation plan is an effort to deter Central American families from making the journey north to the United States.
The Homeland Security Investigations Division
The Homeland Security Investigations Division (HSI) is a lesser-known division within ICE. This division pursues terrorists and criminals involved in the following types of crimes:
- Drug trafficking
- Weapons smuggling
- Human trafficking
- Financial crimes
- Identify fraud
HSI targets those who attempt to illegally smuggle high-tech and military equipment out of the United States. The HSI has a $2 billion annual budget and operates 26 offices within the United States and approximately 50 offices internationally.
The Office of the Principal Legal Adviser
The smallest division within ICE is the Office of the Principal Legal Adviser. This division provides legal support to ICE employees and represents the federal government in immigration courts. The Office of the Principal Legal Adviser is employees, 1,400 federal workers.
How Many Undocumented Immigrants Does ICE Deport?
According to the PEW Research Center, approximately 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants are currently living in the United States. From October to December 2018, ICE deported 22,169 people from inside the united states. This number decreased by 7 percent from the same period in 2017. ICE has fewer than 6,000 officers trained and authorized to deport undocumented immigrants throughout the United States. Many analysts doubt that ICE has the resources, both financial and in terms of personnel, to deport millions of immigrants.
Recent ICE Raids Have Caused Concern Among Immigrants
Nonetheless, many undocumented immigrants are fearful of the possibility of deportation. In August 2019, ICE arrested nearly 700 mainly Latino employees at various warehouses in Mississippi. ICE raided seven employment sites in six different cities around Mississippi after conducting a year-long investigation. After the raids, ICE officials stated that 300 of those who faced detention were released from custody and placed into federal immigration court proceedings. ICE released other arrestees at their worksites. Some remain in detention and face deportation proceedings.
Some ICE Opponents are Calling to Abolish ICE
In recent years, many politicians have criticized ICE. Many critics of President Trump’s immigration policies see ICE as a symbol of overly aggressive anti-immigration policies. Some lawmakers and progressive political candidates have called for the abolition of ICE. Former presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand called for the elimination of ICE, calling it a “deportation force.” Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the entire federal immigration system to be reformed.
Others have proposed breaking ICE up into separate offices. For example, ICE could be divided up according to its three divisions, discussed above. Some Homeland Security agents have stated that the negative public perception of ICE has decreased the agency’s ability to focus on deportations. Some state and local law enforcement officials have refused to cooperate with ICE agents, making ICE agents’ ability to conduct investigations difficult.
If You Need Assistance in an Immigration Matter, We can Help
Many undocumented and documented immigrants have felt the increased tension arising from President Trump’s immigration policy. Whether or not the President can achieve the deportation of millions, his rhetoric is disturbing to many immigrants within the United States. If you have a sensitive immigration issue that you would like to discuss with a skilled attorney, we can help. The experienced Miami immigration attorneys at Canero law have helped thousands of clients with a variety of legal issues. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.