ICE Jurisdiction & Investigative Priorities


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has responsibilities that protect the country’s borders, transportation systems, economic activity and infrastructure. In order to fulfill its duties, ICE employs some of the most highly qualified and trained law enforcement officers in the world. These Special Agents and Immigration Enforcement Agents serve in investigative, intelligence, counter-terrorism and tactical units that meet threats to the United States head on.

With more than 20,000 professionals in the department, ICE has one of the largest operational profiles of any federal agency. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has offices in all 50 states as well as 47 foreign countries. ICE maintains attaches at many U.S. embassies abroad. While its primary responsibility is to monitor all human and commercial traffic into and out of the United States, ICE also performs a number of support functions.

This agency identifies and removes unauthorized aliens who present a threat to public safety or the security of the United States. In addition to working closely with local law enforcement to identify these high risk individuals, ICE manages 16 detention and processing centers which hold illegals until trial or deportation.

A high priority for the U.S. government and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the trafficking of WMD’s and WMD technology. The agency’s Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations Unit monitors the proliferation of such materials and technology. This unit works closely with defense related industries to ensure that any such WMD materials remains secure.

The Office of Federal Protective Service (FPS) is a specialized branch of ICE which ensures the safety of government employees. FPS officers may serve as criminal investigators, emergency planners and personal bodyguards for personnel under threat in the U.S. or abroad. These highly qualified personnel may also gather, analyze and disseminate intelligence regarding threats to U.S. government facilities and personnel.

Investigative Priorities

Tasked with identifying and neutralizing threats to the U.S. from foreign organizations like drug cartels, terrorist organizations and sovereign governments, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has broad latitude to investigate any potential threats. The primary areas of investigation are

  • Immigration crime—any crimes which violate federal immigration laws including illegal entry, visa overstays, and unlawful reentry. Many of these crimes are met with incarceration in federal penitentiaries or ICE detention centers before deportation.
  • Human rights violations—suspects who have committed serious violations of human rights laws like genocide or war crimes fall under the purview of ICE. These offenders may be tried and sentenced to incarceration in the U.S. before forced removal.
  • Drug trafficking—this is a major focus of ICE counter-terrorism operations because funds secured through the drug trade are often used to compromise U.S. security. Criminal and terrorist organizations who wish to harm U.S. interests are often supported by narcotics smuggling.
  • Weapons smuggling—weapons imports and exports are extremely important to criminal operations in the U.S. and in foreign countries. ICE monitors all sales of sensitive weapons, materials and technology.
  • Contraband—many criminal organizations attempt to bypass customs enforcement in order to sell prohibited goods like fake pharmaceuticals, stolen art, and protected goods.
  • Financial crimes—one of the major priorities of counter-terrorism and law enforcement groups is to identify and halt financial activity like money laundering and financial solicitation which supports narcotics, criminal or terrorist organizations.
  • Human smuggling—this is a major activity along the southwest U.S. border. In addition to identifying and removing unauthorized personnel, ICE is also responsible for maintaining peace and security along this extensive border area. In many cases ICE may work on foreign soil and in partnership with foreign law enforcement to interdict human trafficking.
  • Cybercrime—this fast growing area of cross-border criminal activity may include financial crimes, child pornography or national security threats.

The other major area of agency responsibility is national security which includes intelligence and counter-terrorism operations. While many of these operations are grounded in law enforcement responsibilities, ICE may work closely with military and intelligence groups to fulfill their mission objectives.

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