A Guide to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

When it comes to immigration issues in the United States, one term that tends to strike fear in the minds of immigrants is “ICE.” But, what is ICE, who are they, and what exactly do they do? Read on to find out more.

What is ICE?

ICE refers to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. As its name suggests, ICE is primarily responsible for enforcing United States immigration laws. The agency performs investigations relating to people and goods who may be in the United States without formal authorization. In recent months, the agency has been primarily associated with searching for and removing undocumented individuals who may be living in the United States.

Who works for ICE?

20,000 men and women currently work for ICE, which operates out of 400 offices throughout the United States.  It also has a presence in 46 countries around the world. ICE employees are usually US citizens who applied for government employment through online job postings. ICE agents are not typically special agents who had a law-enforcement or similar work background prior to joining the agency.

What’s the difference between ICE and other immigration agencies?

The Department of Homeland Security contains the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), ICE, and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).  All serve different functions as briefly explained below:

  • USCIS processes immigration paperwork for people seeking work permits or work visas, as well as people seeking to become U.S. citizens, permanent residents, asylees, refugees, etc.  
  • ICE, on the other hand, actively seeks out undocumented or deportable immigrants and are more like police officers in this respect.
  • CBP is the agency that people trying to enter the U.S. encounter at airports, seaports and land border ports-of-entry.  They are also responsible for ensuring that illegal drugs and other substances do not enter the country and also assist with preventing unauthorized people from crossing the border.

As stated above, all of these agencies are divisions of the Department of Homeland Security.

What should I do if ICE agents show up at my door?

If ICE agents come to your home, you are not legally required to let them into your home unless they have a warrant.  Although you may open the door to speak to an ICE agent, you should not let them into your home without the proper warrant.   Ask to review the warrant in order to ensure that it is, in fact, properly issued and signed. If it is not the proper warrant, do not allow any ICE agent into your home. State loudly and clearly that you do not consent to their search of your home.  

In today’s climate, the word ICE can be scary.  But, a competent and experienced immigration lawyer can ensure that you receive due process of law and are able to seek all legal relief that you may be eligible to pursue.  If you have encountered ICE and require representation, or if you are concerned about your immigration status, please contact Saleh and Associates for assistance or call us at (305) 448-0077 today!

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Written by Saleh and Associates

Saleh and Associates

Anis N. Saleh is President and Managing Shareholder of the Miami firm of Saleh & Associates, P.A., where he practices in all areas of Immigration and Nationality Law, including extensive experience in employment-based & family-based cases, deportation & removal hearings, and federal litigation.