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What Does ICE Stand for With Immigration?

What does ICE do?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE is a notable federal agency, but its informal name doesn’t describe what they do. ICE is an often controversial authority on immigration and border control measures. 

Here’s what you need to know about ICE and its role in enforcing federal laws. 


What Does ICE Stand For?

ICE is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. ICE agents are responsible for immigration law enforcement, including securing the borders of the United States and other ports of entry and safeguarding the integrity of the country’s immigration system. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in charge of all homeland security investigations for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This agency was formed as a part of the federal government’s response to the 9/11 terror attack, and it is the largest investigative government agency outside of the FBI.


What Does ICE Do?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents protect national security and public safety at the border. This involves preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country, enforcing federal immigration law, preventing crimes, combating cyber crimes, and arresting people who are suspected of committing crimes. 


Detaining Unlawful Immigrants

ICE oversees enforcement and removal operations when someone gets through the border without proper authorization or overstays a visa.

ICE is responsible for detaining people who have crossed the border without proper documentation or overstayed their period of stay to immigration detention centers, where they’ll wait for a hearing in immigration court. ICE assists with deportation after a judge orders an undocumented immigrant to be removed.


Preventing Drug Crimes

ICE works with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce federal drug laws. It’s ICE’s job to stop drug traffickers or importers from entering the country with drugs they may intend to distribute within the United States.

Most drug crimes are detected and prevented through inspection steps with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Agents use inspection tools and even trained dogs to check people and their vehicles for illegal drugs. 

CBP officers recently made their largest drug bust of all time, seizing over $1 million street value of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Border patrol agents may have saved lives by preventing these drugs from entering the country. 


Combating Human Trafficking

Human traffickers abduct or coerce people from impoverished countries. These people are usually younger women, but men and boys can also be trafficked. Traffickers smuggle them across the border to be used in human slavery, such as forced prostitution. 

ICE is the first line of defense to prevent traffickers from crossing the border. ICE can also criminally pursue traffickers who cross the border. 

ICE agents can assist trafficking survivors. Trafficking survivors can often be referred to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for special visas allowing non-citizens to remain in the United States to assist with a criminal investigation into their trafficker.


Why Is ICE Controversial?

ICE plays an important role in maintaining public safety through border control. ICE and DHS are essential protective services. However, they deserve to be held accountable for their decisions, and many American people agree that ICE has used problematic strategies to enforce U.S. laws.

ICE has been scrutinized for serious issues like human rights violations at their detention facilities. These human rights violations primarily occurred under the Trump Administration during a huge push to enforce immigration law.

At the time, former president Donald Trump had announced plans for a border wall that would ultimately never be built. He ramped up ICE’s power and quotas to gather as many undocumented immigrants as possible.

Infants and children were separated from their families and forced to attend hearings in immigration court. Babies as young as one year old were ordered to speak in front of a judge, despite the fact that most of them did not speak English and none of them were old enough to understand what was happening. 

Immigrants were placed into chain link fence cells constructed similarly to dog kennels, leading people to refer to the detainment cells as cages. While being detained, many didn’t have access to proper food, healthcare, or legal resources. They were supplied with mylar emergency blankets and left to fend for themselves in a place where they didn’t speak the same language as the people who had detained them.

The situation was eventually resolved, and a change of political administrations eliminated most of the concerns people had with the overreaching power of ICE. ICE still performs its core functions, but they’re expected to do so in a more ethical and organized way.


What Should You Do If You’re Stopped by ICE?

If you’re a green card holder or U.S. citizen who ICE has stopped, you can ask if you’re free to leave. Be polite, and don’t run.

If you’re being detained, you don’t need to answer any questions they ask you without an attorney present. Even if it seems like they’re trying to be helpful or friendly, they’re still a law enforcement organization. You should never speak to law enforcement without an attorney by your side.


What To Do When You’re Being Investigated by ICE

If you’re being investigated by ICE or someone you care about has been detained by ICE, you need legal advice. It’s better to get advice before removal proceedings begin. Immigrants are allowed a day in immigration court, and an experienced immigration attorney can help.

The Cohen, Tucker & Ades team has over 40 years of experience helping immigrants facing removal proceedings, deportation, and immigrants who want to appeal a deportation decision. Contact us to discuss the details of your case. After reviewing your situation, we will be able to advise you of the options best suited to your situation. 


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