ICE Investigators Are Sick of Being Confused With Immigration Enforcement

The enforcement of "zero tolerance" immigration policies by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations is harming another part of the agency.


Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Newscom

At least 19 agents working for an investigative division within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are asking for separation from the agency. In a letter first reported by The Texas Observer, agents from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division informed Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen that their association with ICE's immigration enforcement tactics has jeopardized their ability to conduct investigations unrelated to immigration.

The four-page letter explains that HSI's mission and that of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) are fundamentally different. HSI, referred to as the "U.S. Government's 'Transnational Investigative' agency," specializes in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and trade fraud investigations. The division has played a major role, for instance, in prosecutions of dark web drug vendors operating in the United States.

The fact that HSI resides under the same bureaucratic umbrella as ERO has negatively affected the division's ability to investigate matters unrelated to immigration. From their letter:

The disparate functions performed by ERO and HSI often cause confusion among the public, the press, other law enforcement agencies and lawmakers because the two missions are not well understood and are erroneously combined. ERO's administrative actions have been mistaken for illegal investigations and warrantless searches. HSl's investigations have been perceived as targeting undocumented aliens, instead of the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes impacting our communities and national security. Furthermore, the perception of HSI's investigative independence is unnecessarily impacted by the political nature of ERO's civil immigration enforcement. Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with HSI because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration. Other jurisdictions agree to partner with HSI as long as the "ICE" name is excluded from any public facing information. HSI is constantly expending resources to explain the organizational differences to state and local partners, as well as to Congressional staff, and even within our own department—DHS.

We've seen before how aggressive immigration enforcement can compromise other types of investigations. The East Valley Tribune, a newspaper based in Tempe, Arizona, published a five-part series documenting the ways former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's emphasis on immigration enforcement affected law enforcement resources. The paper explained that the overemphasis led to "slower response times on emergency calls, a dropping arrest rate and, for a time, excessive overtime costs." That series earned the Tribune a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. As the Pultizer committee noted, the report exposed "how a popular sheriff's focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crimes and other aspects of public safety."

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  1. My heart bleeds for their suffering.

  2. “”””specializes in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and trade fraud investigations.””””

    So they want to stop doing one thing that Reason does not like “controlling immigration” to free up time to do other things that Reason does not like

    1. Won’t someone think of the poor drug enforcement officers?!

      Looks like Reason has a victim stack too and migrants of any stripe are at the top. Drug users and prostitutes can get bent.

    2. Re: DJF,

      — So they want to stop doing one thing that Reason does not like —

      No, they’re pointing out the utter stupidity of the “can’t-happen-here” Trumpistas who insisted that immigration enforcement just couldn’t affect other law enforcement efforts, no, no, no. Well, there’s the evidence that even the same people see their efforts hindered because of Il Trumpe’s ill-advised policies.

      1. Please explain in detail the evidence showing that enforcing the law effects investigations.

        1. You’re wasting your time. There a bunch of open border and anarchists on there that think Americans should never dictate what American law should be and that laws should never be enforced.

          1. We must have stumbled upon a meeting of Libertarians For Narcs.

            That, or Libertarians For Authoritarian Immigration Policies And Big-Government Enforcement.

            Carry on, clingers.

            1. How is your anime watching going Rev?

  3. Baby-rapers do NOT like being confused with puppy-beaters and puppy-eaters!

    1. Because those guys are sick. That’s not us.

  4. Trample liberty like a thug, get confused with other thugs.

    1. Enforce US immigration law, get confusing non-Libertarian comments posted about you.

  5. How did they manage to avoid making it the Homeland Enforcement and Removal Operations division? Seems like the sort of egotistical self-aggrandizing that would be right up their alley.

  6. The Gestapo department which gases Jews wants to be distinguished from the department which rounds up homosexuals. Or is it the other way round?

    1. More like the Abwehr doesn’t want to be associated with the Schutzstaffel. A much more apt comparison.

      1. You guys are both idiots.

  7. . . . specializes in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and trade fraud investigations.

    . . . the two missions are not well understood and are erroneously combined.

    Maybe they’re not getting ‘cooperation’ not because people are confusing them with immigration enforcement but because they’re conducting completely bullshit ‘investigations’ into completely bullshit crimes?

  8. Calling for the disbandment of ICE is truly a misguided policy. Removing illegal aliens with deportation orders in place is their main purpose. They may be a violent felon or a nonviolent offender with active deportation orders. I could not imagine that the people calling for this to take place actually want the laws of our country to go unenforced, or do they? Perhaps they do. ICE also inspects cargo, investigates and apprehends those seeking to illegally smuggle contraband into the US. There is PLENTY for them to do, so leave them alone and let them do their job. They have been heckled as of late and protest camps set up at their facilities, where the operative slogan from the protesters is to declare them to be Nazis. Believe me, the ONLY people acting like Nazis are the protesters,as they attempt to foment anarchy, just as the early Nazis commonly did.
    I wonder how many THOUSANDS of ICE investigators are not personally insulted by upholding and enforcing Immigration Laws passed by Congress and modified through court rulings, such as the 9th Circuit Court of CA mandating the family separation policy?

    1. There are already agencies that can do those jobs. Why have another agency on top of it?

      Nobody is saying to stop all of ICE’s activities. People question why it needs to be layered on top of CES and CBP. What does ICE do that the other agencies can’t?

    2. 1. This is irrelevant to the article here.

      2. If ICE is deporting people, then what is CBP for? Sounds like they’re doing the same job. Why aren’t these guys rolled into CBP? Looks to me we have here *three* agencies that investigate drug crimes specifically (along with a legion of others that have this in their portfolio), along with a multitude that investigate ‘human trafficking’. Why are all these law enforcement agencies tasked with massively overlapping portfolios?

      Yet your main concern here seems to be ‘da law is da law!’

      As for ‘would like to see the laws go unenforced’ – its not an either/or choice here. Don’t make shitty laws – and even if you’re pro-immigration enforcement, as a libertarian you should still be anti-drug enforcement – and then we don’t have to have arguments about which ones its moral to ignore.

      1. ^ This. 100% this.

  9. Deport all illegals immigrants.

    1. Promote libertarian immigration policies and practices.

      Laugh at authoritarian bigots.

      1. More time to watch anime?

    2. End the welfare state and then all the problems attributed to illegal immigration go away *and* there’s no longer a need to spend MORE MONEY to build the wall.

      1. There already is a wall. Ending the welfare state would help greatly but the other issue is that non-Americans will respect our rule of law or they are not welcome.

        Americans like me are fine with hard working and freedom loving immigrants.

        1. American politicians and bureaucrats don’t respect the rule of law very well, either, so what do you expect from the rest of us? If LEO’s would simply enforce the laws consistently and fairly, then those laws would apply to illegal immigrants the same as it does to anyone else. If LEO’s have a problem with enforcing the laws, well, that’s a problem altogether different from illegal immigration.

  10. Who cares? ICE shouldn’t exist at all.

  11. Actions have consequences, surprise, surprise! People don’t trust organizations with bad reputations. Another big surprise.

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