‘Abolish ICE’: What is Immigration and Customs Enforcement and what does it do?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What You Need To Know: ICE

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

On Wednesday, amid a celebration of Independence Day, a woman scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty and sat at the feet of Lady Liberty in a nearly four-hour standoff with law enforcement authorities.

The woman, Therese Okoumou, a member of a group called “Rise and Resist,” was  protesting the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. On a banner she and her fellow protesters were holding before she began her climb up the statue, were the words “Abolish ICE.”

During the past few weeks, protesters across the country have be seen wearing shirts and holding signs sporting the phrase, and they, along with a growing number of Democrats in Congress, are demanding that Trump abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Calls to close down the agency ramped up when the administration announced it would implement a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to prosecuting migrants caught entering the country illegally. That policy led to the separation of migrant children from the adults who brought them across the border illegally.

The release of wrenching audio of children crying for their parents and scenes of young children being held in fenced areas of a detention center helped to galvanize the movement to shutter the agency.

But, are the calls to abolish ICE misdirected? Is ICE responsible for separating children from their parents?

Here’s a look at the agency and what it was created for.

What is ICE?

ICE is an acronym for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

How long has ICE been around?

ICE is an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

After the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush authorized the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

When DHS was created, the investigative and enforcement operations of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were merged. ICE grew out of that merger.

ICE, along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), are in charge of immigration control.

CBP monitors U.S. ports of entry, while USCIS is tasked with handling visas.

ICE handles overseas detentions and facilitates the return of people arrested for illegally entering the country.

What is ICE’s mission?

ICE agents enforce more than 400 federal laws covering customs, border control, trade and immigration.

ICE handles that mission in three areas: enforcing immigration laws, tracking the illegal movement of people and goods and preventing terrorism.

Immigration enforcement: ICE carries out the enforcement of immigration law under its Enforcement and Removal Operations division.

The division apprehends migrants who have entered the country illegally, detains them and returns them to their home country if they are ordered by federal courts to be deported.

ERO is also in charge of managing migrants who are in custody.

ERO’s work, according to the ICE website, takes place mainly in the interior of the country, not along the country’s border area.

Investigating illegal movement of people and goods: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is responsible for uncovering illegal and counterfeit merchandise that is smuggled into the country, mainly involving guns, money and drugs, according to the agency.

HIS is also responsible for investigating human rights violations, tracking human smuggling and trafficking and monitoring transnational gang activity.

Preventing terrorism: ICE agents identify those in other countries who are considered a threat to U.S. security both before and after they have entered the United States.

They do that with the Counter-Proliferation Investigations Program (CPIP) which monitors the export of military items, firearms, and ammunition, and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which tracks and monitors schools, exchange visitor programs and people who attend schools in the United States.

How many people work for ICE?

ICE has around 20,000 employees in the United States and 50 foreign countries.

Is ICE the agency that is responsible for separating migrant children from their parents when they illegally enter the United States?

No, ICE is not responsible for separating families who illegally enter the United States. Customs and Border Protection is the agency that patrols the border and arrests adults entering illegally. Children with adults who enter the country illegally are separated from the adult when the adult is sent to jail.

On an average day, according to the ICE website, the agency incarcerates 842 aliens, removes 645 undocumented migrants from the country, blocks more than 3,055 malware attacks, confiscates 2,973 pounds of illegal narcotics and arrests seven child predators.

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