Homeland Security Investigations
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s mission is to investigate, disrupt and dismantle terrorist, transnational and other criminal organizations that threaten or seek to exploit the customs and immigration laws of the United States.
HSI has broad legal authority to conduct federal criminal investigations into the illegal cross-border movement of people, goods, money, technology and other contraband throughout the United States. HSI utilizes these authorities to investigate a wide array of transnational crime, including: terrorism; national security threats; narcotics smuggling; transnational gang activity; child exploitation; human smuggling and trafficking; illegal exports of controlled technology and weapons; money laundering; financial fraud and scams; worksite and employment crimes; cybercrime; intellectual property theft and trade fraud; identity and benefit fraud; and human rights violations and war crimes.
In collaboration with its strategic partners in the U.S. and abroad, HSI special agents gather evidence to identify and build criminal cases against Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), terrorist networks and facilitators, and other criminal elements that threaten the United States. HSI works with prosecutors to indict and arrest violators, execute criminal search warrants, seize criminally derived money and assets, and take other actions designed to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations operating around the world. These efforts protect U.S. national, border, and economic security, and ensure the safety of the public and our communities.
HSI’s workforce consists of more than 10,400 employees, including special agents, criminal analysts, mission support personnel and contract staff assigned to offices throughout the United States and around the world.
Most of HSI’s 6,800 special agents are assigned to one of HSI’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC) offices or multiple sub-offices located in 225 cities across the nation. HSI’s domestic footprint is supplemented by more than 2,800 task force officers representing key strategic federal, state and local partners in the fight to combat transnational criminal organizations.
HSI’s international force is DHS’s largest investigative presence abroad, anchored by special agents assigned to U.S. embassies, consulates and Department of Defense (DOD) combatant commands around the globe. HSI has one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
HSI successfully conducts investigations into global criminal enterprises and terrorist networks that violate U.S. laws by utilizing the agency’s:
- Unique and expansive criminal and administrative authorities.
- Strategic law enforcement and non-governmental partnerships.
- Robust international footprint and connectivity.
- Cutting-edge technology and innovation, and sophisticated criminal analysis.
To accomplish its mission, HSI is organized into the following divisions:
- Domestic Operations manages, directs, coordinates and supports all investigative activities of HSI domestic field offices
- Countering Transnational Organized Crime furthers HSI’s mission by supporting investigations and operations related to transnational crime, financial and narcotics violations, human trafficking and smuggling, public safety and labor exploitation
- International Operations develops and supports investigations, initiatives and operations conducted or supported by HSI attaché offices and builds relationships with foreign law enforcement partners
- Office of Administrative Operations provides HSI domestic and international offices with budget formulation, budget execution, financial oversight, acquisitions and procurement, workforce management and other administrative services
- Office of Intelligence uses the HSI Framework for Criminal Analysis to conduct sophisticated and complex analysis of criminals and their networks in support of HSI investigations and investigative priorities
- Cyber and Operational Technology oversees investigations of internet-related crimes, including cybercrime and child exploitation, and manages initiatives that combine information sharing and technology across DHS
- Global Trade oversees and supports investigations of U.S. import and export laws to ensure national security, protect the public’s health and safety and stop predatory and illegal trade practices
- National Security leads HSI’s efforts to identify, disrupt and dismantle national security threats, terrorist organizations and hostile foreign intelligence entities
HSI – FY 2021 Achievements
HSI – Historic Origins
Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) story begins in 1789 when Congress established the U.S. Customs Service and in 1891 with the creation of the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration under the Treasury Department.
Customs houses were used as administrative headquarters at ports of entry around the country. Customs officials inspected, taxed, stamped and released imported goods. The agency also stopped banned items from entering the country. Officials used ships, called cutters, to stop ships bearing cargo at sea and to prevent smugglers from bringing items ashore. The list of barred items changed over time, but included undeclared liquor, tobacco, firearms, drugs, stolen property and certain foods. The 1976 Arms Export Control Act gave Customs the additional authority to investigate and prevent international weapons trafficking.
The Immigration Act of 1891 made immigration a federal function. Immigration inspectors at various ports of entry inspected passenger manifests, conducted health inspections and accepted or rejected prospective immigrants. In 1906, Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act, which framed the rules for naturalization within the United States. The law established standard naturalization forms and encouraged state and local courts to relinquish their naturalization jurisdiction to federal courts.
In 1933, Congress established the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 expanded INS’ responsibilities by allowing it to investigative certain gang, fraud and human smuggling activities, and enforce sanctions against employers who hired illegal aliens. Additionally, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 enabled the hiring of additional INS special agents for interior enforcement and bolstered certain criminal penalties, including those for alien smuggling.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists aboard American Airlines Flight 11 intentionally crashed a plane into the World Trade Center's North Tower. The tower was home to the U.S. Customs House at 6 World Trade Center.
After the events of 9/11, the U.S. government created a stronger approach to national security with the passage of the Homeland Security Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The department was formed by combining 22 different federal organizations into a unified force.
In 2003, Customs and INS were merged into the department’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2010, HSI was formed within ICE from elements of ICE’s previous Offices of Investigations, Intelligence and International Affairs.