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ICE - An Overview

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What Is the Immigration and Customs Enforcmenet (ICE)?

As a result of the events of September 11, 2001, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was disbanded in a barrage of political criticism. The Patriot Act paved the way for a replacement agency more able to deal with the threat of terrorism: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS is comprised of three sub-agencies:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

ICE is the DHS’s enforcement arm, replacing the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs Investigators, and the Federal Air Marshal Service. Thus, ICE could be thought of as the “immigration police,” investigating such crimes as: human trafficking, drug smuggling, gun smuggling, money laundering, passport fraud, child pornography, bomb threats, and more.

How Is the ICE Organized?

ICE employs over 15,000 people with backgrounds in the military, law enforcement, law, government, and management. ICE headquarters is in Washington, D.C, and has satellite offices in all major U.S. cities and some international cities.

ICE is composed of various divisions. The Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) detains illegal aliens and deports them. The Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS) is the security guard for all federal buildings and facilities. The Office of Intelligence is the “FBI” arm for ICE, collecting and analyzing immigration violations and connected crimes. The Office of Congressional Relations (OCR) presents ICE strategic objectives, programs, and operations to Congress.  Other divisions include the Office of Investigations (OI) and the Office of International Affairs (OIA)

What Immigration Services Does the ICE Provide?

ICE offers a number of immigration services. Chief among them is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a computerized tracking system collecting and maintaining personal information of international students attending U.S. schools and colleges.  Designated school officials (DSOs) are responsible for inputting student information into SEVIS, and students are responsible for updating any changed information through their DSO.

Does the ICE Detain Immigrants?

The ICE is the branch of the DHS which enforces immigration laws. As such, the ICE has the power to detain persons suspected of being in the country illegally. The ICE has been criticized for the way it detains illegal immigrants, especially young women and children. Since these young women and children are held in the same institutions as human traffickers and child molesters, stories about sexual assault have become too common. Prisoner’s rights are thus a major point of debate about the ICE. 

Is There a Criminal Procedure That the ICE Must Follow When Making an Arrest?

The ICE has the authority to arrest persons that the ICE suspects has broken immigration law. The ICE can detain a suspect for forty-eight hours without a warrant or longer in an emergency. At the end of the forty-eight hours, the ICE must either release the person or begin the procedures for deportation of the person.

The ICE can release the detained on bond, with the bond being at least $1,500. The bond can be challenged as excessive at a judicial hearing. The detained can challenge their detention by arguing that they are not an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, a human trafficker, or any of the other groups the ICE has the authority to deport.

What If the Country I am from Cannot Accept My Deportation?

Unfortunately, many individuals detained by the ICE cannot be returned to their country of origin. This has lead to indefinite detention in many cases. The Supreme Court has ruled that these individuals can demand a writ of habeas corpus after six months of detainment. A writ allows the detained to challenge their detainment in court.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Challenging a federal agency like the ICE is not easy since the agency will have the resources to fight any legal battle. An experienced immigration attorney can speak for you against the ICE and ensure that your rights are respected.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-16-2014 02:30 PM PDT

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