As far as government agencies go, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a relative newcomer. However, the roots behind ICE and its focus on national security date back hundreds of years — 1789 to be exact. That's when Congress established the U.S. Customs Service (CSCS). Since then, the Immigration Act of 1891 was implemented, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was created, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established. All have paved the way for ICE.
Today, ICE serves as the largest investigative arm of DHS. ICE's National Security Investigations Division (NSID) — part of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) — leads efforts to identify, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations that threaten the security of the United States. Each program housed under NSID serves a specific purpose, whether that be protecting our borders, keeping terrorists out of the United States or identifying war criminals and making them accountable for their crimes.
The following programs fall under NSID's jurisdiction.
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) prevents terrorists and dangerous extremists from gaining entry to the United States. The program uses a web-based system to manage information on foreign students and exchange visitors in the United States.
- The Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU) prevents criminals and terrorists from fraudulently using our nation's immigration system. This unit investigates nonimmigrant visa holders who violate their immigration status, possible terrorists and individuals who exploit the student visa system.
- The National Security Unit (NSU) identifies and dismantles national security threats against the United States and oversees ICE's participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The JTTF investigates terrorist organizations and their malicious actors.
- Special agents are assigned to federal agencies and departments as National Security Liaisons (NSLs). They help ICE conduct comprehensive national security investigations that span across government agencies.
- The Counter Proliferation Investigations (CPI) unit prevents criminal and terrorist organizations from acquiring and trafficking items like weapons and sensitive technology. It also serves as the home to the Export Enforcement Coordination Center (EECC), a clearing house for law enforcement agencies to share information related to CPIs.
- The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) identifies and removes war crime suspects and human rights abusers from the United States.
"All [our programs] link together," says ICE Associate Deputy Assistant Director Frank Cabaddu. He refers to the interconnectedness as a "storyline" where each program plays a role in helping U.S. citizens "sleep better at night."