U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was established in 2003 as a component agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), following the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
ICE was formed with the passage of the 2002 Homeland Security Act to absorb the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as the U.S. Customs Service, which was formerly under the control of the Treasury Department.
The agency is currently led by Acting Director Matthew Albence, who oversees 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices around the U.S. and abroad. It also serves as the principal criminal investigative agency within DHS and enforces more than 400 federal statutes.
ICE’s funding is set to rise to nearly $8.4 billion in 2020, and it has already requested more than $10.4 billion for 2021.
The organization carries out three major directives: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and running the Office of the Principal Legal Adviser (OPLA).
HSI pursues terrorists, drug traffickers, human traffickers, weapons smugglers, hackers, and those who commit financial crimes and identity theft. ERO handles the arrests of illegal immigrants, as well as their deportation back to their country of origin.
OPLA employs more than 1,400 workers, 1,100 of which are attorneys. It is tasked with providing legal support to other agency employees and with representing the government in immigration removal cases.
In 2019, ICE removed 267,258 individuals from the U.S., which represented a four percent increase from 2018. It also arrested 143,099 illegal aliens, of which 92,108 were convicted criminals.
President Trump has been publicly supportive of the agency, taking a more hands-on approach with regard to enforcement and deportation, while several high-profile Democrats have pushed to abolish ICE entirely.
Those who support total abolition include Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.