What is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency?

Kathy Heydasch
Kathy Heydasch
Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency was created as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act created the Department of Homeland Security and merged the US Customs Service with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to form the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Its main purpose is to protect and uphold public safety both in the US and abroad through the enforcement of over 400 federal immigration and customs laws.

Employing over 20,000 people in approximately 450 offices worldwide, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is responsible for investigating and eliminating security threats to the US and its citizens. This includes powers related to the deportation of illegal aliens and the investigation of any terror threats to the US, both foreign and domestic, as well as many other responsibilities. The US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency is the second-largest investigative service in the US federal government behind the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There are two large branches of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency as well as other administrative and managerial divisions. The first is called Enforcement and Removal Operations, and it enforces immigration laws by identifying, apprehending, detaining, arresting and/or deporting those persons in the US illegally, especially criminals and those already in custody of a law enforcement agency. One of the services of the Enforcement and Removal Operations branch is to provide legal resources to those in custody.

The second large branch of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is the office of Homeland Security Investigations. This department is charged with the investigation of a large array of criminal activity, from bomb plots to art theft. Simply stated, Homeland Security Investigations studies and prosecutes the movement of illegal people and goods in and out of the US, as well as within its own borders.

The Office of Equal Employment Opportunity follows and applies the laws laid out in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it directs affirmative action programs and nondiscrimination complaints. The Freedom of Information Act Office monitors requests for records to be made public throughout the federal government and enforces the Freedom of Information Act. The National Firearms and Tactical Training Unit ensures that all personnel have the weapons, protective gear and training to execute their jobs.

Other offices within the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency provide support as well as investigate other forms of criminal activity. These include the offices of Acquisition Management, Chief Diversity Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer. There are also offices of Human Capital, Policy, and Training & Development.

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