Tracking ICE Enforcement

ICE Enforcement - An Overview
Over the past decade, U.S. policies have been enmeshing immigrants in the criminal justice system and the “War on Terror”, with detention and deportation as critical tools.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is part of The Department of Homeland Security. It is the second largest law enforcement agency in the country with vast resources and infrastructure, including as many guns as the FBI. ICE is in charge of the investigations, arrests, detention and deportation of non-citizens both at the border and throughout the interior of the country.

Current ICE Structure and Operations

  • March 2003 – Department of Homeland Security Act: This Act dismantled the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and transferred its responsibilities to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with 3 bureaus: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • March 2004 – Operation Endgame: This strategic plan from DHS’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set out a ten-year goal to “remove all removable aliens” from the United States.

  • August 2006 – DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the replacement of ICE’s practice of “catch and release,” in which non-Mexican immigrants who were apprehended along the border were eligible to be released on bond, with a policy of mandatory detention for anyone apprehended within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of entry into the U.S. This policy shift greatly added to the accelerating use of detention.

  • July 2009 - ICE revised the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) used to enter into 287(g) partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and announced eleven new 287(g) agreements with law enforcement agencies from around the country. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996 added Section 287(g) to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the DHS Secretary to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration officer functions. The eleven new agreements announced in July 2009 are with the following jurisdictions: Gwinnett (GA) County Sheriff’s Department.; Monmouth (NJ) County Sheriff’s Office; Rhode Island Department of Corrections; Delaware Department of Corrections – Sussex Correctional Institution; Houston Police Department; City of Mesquite (NV) Police Department; Morristown (NJ) Police Department; City of Mesa (AZ) Police Department; Florence (AZ) Police Department; Guilford County (NC) Sheriff's Office; Charleston County (SC) Sheriff's Office.

  • August 2009 - ICE announced that the agency intends to take steps to address the poor conditions in detention facilities and the lack of federal oversight of the current detention system. The agency announced the creation of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP) within DHS, as well as a series of immediate actions it intends to take, including the creation of two advisory groups comprised of local and national organizations, the appointment of 23 detention managers to work in the largest detention facilities, and the employment of experts in health care administration and detention management. According to ICE, the agency will no longer rely primarily on excess capacity in penal institutions, but instead will focus on the creation of a “civil detention system” over the course of the next three to five years.
  • Who's Who at ICE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Leadership


    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

    The Impact of Enforcement

    The recent impact of ICE enforcement includes:

    • Approximately 380,000 immigrants were detained in 2009, more than 30,000 people per day. The average length of detention is currently 33.5 days.

    • More than 369,211 immigrants were deported in 2009, a record for the agency and a twenty seven percent increase from 2007.

    • DHS has spent over $2.8 billion on efforts to deport immigrants since the creation of ICE in 2003.

    • In total, 3.7 million immigrants have been deported since 1994.

    • A 12 fold increase in worksite arrests between 2002 and 2008. A new trend is to use “identify theft” charges to put immigrants in the category of “criminal alien” to make it easier to deport them.

    • Over 100 “Fugitive Operations Teams” and the development of other specialized operations. ICE claims these are focused on specific groups but they are often used as a pretext for wide scale arrests in apartment complexes, workplaces, and public spaces.

    • 67% of ICE detainees are housed in local and county jail facilities, 17% in contract detention facilities, 13% in ICE-owned facilities, and 3% in other facilities such as those run by the Bureau of Prisons.

    • According to the Washington Post, “with roughly 1.6 million immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.” (Washington Post, February 2, 2007)

    October 23, 2008 ICE Press Release: ICE multifaceted strategy leads to record enforcement results

    Costs of Enforcement

    In 1996, before enactment of mandatory detention laws, the budget of the entire Immigration and Naturalization Service was $2.6 billion. This included not only the functions now carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but also the immigration services sector (now DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services), and border enforcement (now DHS’s Customs and Border Protection), which at that time fell under the INS umbrella.

    Today, the United States spends nearly $6 billion on ICE operations alone. Government funding for ICE continues to increase almost exponentially. The total budget for ICE alone in the 2008 fiscal year is $5.58 billion, and $5.93 billion for 2009.

    From the ICE Budget Fact Sheet Fiscal Year 2008:

    • Custody Operations: $1.77B

    • Transportation and Removal Operations: $281.9M

    • Alternatives to Detention: $69.9M

    ICE 2008 Budget Factsheet

    Click here to download ICE Budget Factsheets from other years, including 2009.

    The average cost of detaining an immigrant is approximately $122/day per person. Alternatives to detention are effective and significantly cheaper, with some programs costing as little as $12/day. Click here to learn more about Alternatives to Detention.

    Local Law Enforcement Collaboration with ICE

    ICE has embarked on a new trend of collaborating with local law enforcement through its ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) program. Authorized through INA section 287(g), the ACCESS program permits the deputization of state and local officials as federal immigration officers. In addition to the ACCESS program, a recent proliferation of state and local laws barring undocumented immigrants from working, obtaining housing, or using public benefits has created a disturbing intrusion into what has historically been a federal responsibility and has created widespread fear and disruption in communities.

    Click here for more about ICE ACCESS programs.

    Why is ACCESS problematic?

    • Local law enforcement agencies often do not have the resources to exercise this dual unfunded mandate.

    • Performing immigration duties interferes with local law enforcement’s larger tasks of keeping communities safe and secure.

    • Local law enforcement cooperation with ICE contributes to a culture of fear. Immigrants are often too afraid to call the police or seek help in an emergency which puts whole communities at risk.


    Standing FIRM: An Online Community for Migrant Rights: A blog tracking raids and enforcement news.

    Nebraska Appleseed: Forcing our Blues into Gray Areas: Local Police and Immigration Enforcement.

    National Council of LaRaza: State and Local Police Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws: A Toolkit for Advocates.

    Progressive States Initiative, Sept 2008 Report: “The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by State Governments Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants."

    The Migration Policy Institute on Local Law Enforcement Cooperation with ICE:

    Learn more about Border Enforcement and Short-Term Detention.