Five Facts You Need to Know About US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Last week, the House of Representatives approved a resolution supporting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, in response to a call from Democrats to abolish it. There is growing public pressure on elected officials to eliminate the agency permanently, in light of the recent controversy of separating children from families at the border. But many Americans still don’t know what this agency, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, does.

Below are five facts about ICE and how it has evolved in recent years: 

1. ICE’s mission is to “protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety.” According to its website, ICE is responsible for enforcing more than 400 federal statutes, many of which involve finding and removing “illegal aliens who are criminals, fugitives, or recent arrivals.” Today, the organization employs more than 20,000 people in over 400 offices in the U.S. and around the world.

2. The agency was created in March 2003 under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. President Bush authorized the creation of the Department of Homeland Security following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to effectively deploy all the government’s resources to secure the border. Before ICE was created, the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Federal Protection Service were responsible for these duties. 

3. President Trump has requested that ICE receive close to $9 billion in fiscal year 2019. This includes close to $3 billion for over 50,000 detention beds, over $570 million for an additional 2,000 law-enforcement officers, and over $130 million to upgrade E-Verify, a system designed to confirm whether a person is authorized to work in the United States. Over the years, ICE’s budget has increased substantially; its initial budget in 2003 was $3.3 billion. 

4. Jobs at ICE include those in Enforcement and Removal Operations and Homeland Security Investigations. The ERO removes undocumented immigrants and monitors those who have recently crossed the border. HSI, which includes the domestic operations, intelligence, international affairs, mission support, national intellectual property rights, and national security investigations divisions, investigates potential terrorists and others who threaten national security. 

5. Since President Trump was inaugurated in 2017, ICE arrests have increased while border arrests have decreased. According to, the Border Patrol made 311,000 arrests last fiscal year, a decline of 25 percent from 416,000 during the final year of the Obama administration. During that same period, ICE made 143,000 arrests, up 25 percent from the year before. 

No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.

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