As the immigration crisis over forced parent-child separations at the Mexican border dominates the news, ICE has been front-and-center. But what is ICE, what does ICE stand for and what do they do?
What does ICE stand for?
What does ICE stand for anyway? ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
What does ICE do?
ICE is an agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and was founded in 2003 under the presidency of George W. Bush. It was formed by a merger of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and a law-enforcement division of the U.S. Customs Service.
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ICE is charged with investigating security vulnerabilities that result from people and goods moving into and out of the United States, and identifying and removing undocumented immigrants from the country. The former is known as HSI (Homeland Security Investigations), the latter as ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations).
Their investigations encompass the trafficking of drugs and arms and humans; child exploitation; illegal servitude; cyber crimes and international gangs.
ICE also operates detention centers, where apprehended immigrants are held until their cases can be heard in court and they are removed to their home countries.
Why is ICE controversial?
Some view ICE's tactics as brutal and unjust.
During his two terms in office, President Obama oversaw the deportation of 2.4 million immigrants, many of whom had not been convicted of a crime or had been convicted of a minor crime. The Obama administration did not allow the separation of undocumented parents and children; the concept of doing so as a deterrent was proposed to and rejected by Obama.
The Trump administration decided to order ICE to separate undocumented parents and children who are crossing into the United States. NBC News has reported that unaccompanied minors and separated children are being held in detention centers converted from former big-box stores. Because those have begun to fill, "tent cities" are being constructed in Texas to hold those children. The policy has been criticized harshly by both sides of the political aisle. Former First Lady Laura Bush called it "immoral" and "cruel" and said it reminded her of the Japanese internment during World War II.
On Monday evening, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen said that DHS was "no longer ignoring the law" and that "Congress should fix it."
Democrats are accusing Trump of using children to pursue a racist political agenda.