Following the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government restructured its handling of investigating and managing immigration and related activity around the world, with an eye toward better protecting the United States from terrorist and security threats. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003 as part of this government reorganization.
The largest investigative arm of the DHS is the Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency, also known as "ICE." The mission of ICE is to to promote homeland security and public safety by enforcing U.S. federal criminal and civil laws concerning border control, customs, trade, and immigration.
Within ICE, there are four notable areas of operational focus:
This division handles primary enforcement matters to do with non-citizens in the U.S., such as apprehending those who are unlawfully present or have violated U.S. law, detaining them when necessary, and carrying out immigration court orders of removal.
This office a supports the enforcement needs of ICE’s executive leadership and operational field units by use of technology and other intelligence gathering tools. HSI-Intel also handles the National Incident Response Unit (NIRU), which assists in coordinating multi-agency preparation for and response to national emergencies or critical events such as natural disasters, disease pandemics, and terrorist attacks.
This directorate investigates domestic and international activities arising from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within and out of the United States. It investigates immigration-related crime, human rights violations and human smuggling, drug smuggling, weapons and other types of contraband smuggling, financial crimes, cybercrime, and matters of export enforcement. ICE special agents are responsible for carrying out investigations aimed at protecting critical infrastructure industries that might be vulnerable to sabotage, attack, or exploitation.
This division conducts and coordinates investigations of transnational criminal organizations, and serves as the agency's liaison to counterparts in local government and law enforcement. OIA responsibilities also include providing training and capacity building to foreign law enforcement counterparts and helping with removal of aliens by facilitating their repatriation.
The ICE website, at www.ice.gov, offers important information such as a "detainee locator" (for people whose non-citizen family members have been arrested by ICE), a place to report suspicious activity (on the HSI Tip Form), and statistics on removal of aliens ("Removal Statistics").