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What is ICE?

A Feb. 7 photo released by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows foreign nationals being arrested during a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles.Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country over the weekend drew scrutiny from immigration advocates and others concerned with President Trump’s policies. A leading advocacy group for immigrant rights said ICE officers had detained as many as 100 people in raids throughout the Los Angeles area, according to the Los Angeles Times. Reported arrests in places such as Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Texas, and North Carolina also had immigrants shaken up.

Advocates blamed the raids on Trump’s call for stronger deportation enforcement, but immigration officials say no. David Marin, an ICE officer in Greater Los Angeles, told the media this weekend’s operation was planned well in advance of Trump taking office.


During the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, 2 million people were deported, earning him the nickname “Deporter in Chief” from his critics.

Whether the recent ICE raids were due to the new president’s policies or were business as usual, here are five things you should know about the agency.

What is ICE?

US Immigration Customs Enforcement is the government agency that enforces all federal laws regarding border control, customs, trade, and immigration “to promote homeland security and public safety,” according to the agency’s website.

How long has the agency been around?

Almost 14 years. ICE was created under the Bush administration’s Homeland Security Act in 2003, setting into motion what the agency’s website said was the “single-largest government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense” in 1949. The interior and investigative elements of the former US Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service merged to become ICE.

What are ICE’s two primary operational directorates?

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). These directorates are part of a “unique combination of civil and criminal authorities” that ICE was granted in response to the 9/11 attacks to better protect the public, according to the agency. ERO identifies, arrests, and removes dangerous immigrants, as well as those who come to the United States without proper documentation. HSI combats criminal activity exploiting America’s travel, trade, financial, and immigration systems.


How big is the agency?

ICE has more than 20,000 employees in about 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries. It has an annual budget of about $6 billion.

Where is ICE’s Boston office?

ICE’s Boston Field Office is in Burlington and is responsible for enforcement in all New England states.

Lauren Fox can be reached at lauren.fox@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurenbfox.