It’s a story that began in our nation’s earliest days…
The roles and responsibilities now carried by the men and women who compose the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement workforce were conceived and delineated by our founding fathers, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
The passage of the Tariff Act of 1789, the first major piece of legislation enacted in the United States after the ratification of the United States Constitution, had two purposes. It was to protect manufacturing industries developing in the new nation and raise revenue for our fledgling federal government, struggling with debts incurred throughout the American Revolution.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States, take a few moments to discover a functional history of ICE which is only now being told.
It's a story that changed seventeen years ago…
With its passage in November 2002, the Homeland Security Act set into motion what would be the single-largest government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense. Opening its doors in March 2003, one of the component agencies in the new Department of Homeland Security was the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.
ICE was granted a unique combination of civil and criminal authorities to better protect national security and strengthen public safety in response to the deadly attacks perpetrated on 9/11. Leveraging those authorities, ICE has become a powerful and sophisticated federal law enforcement agency.
Throughout 2020, ICE is looking back at its achievements and history through a series of stories, images and milestones, focusing on significant events and accomplishments, one year at a time, beginning with 2003.
September 11, 2001: 19 terrorists hijack commercial airliners and carry out massive attack on the United States
Terrorists take advantage of security weaknesses in our aviation system to kill nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children, including citizens of more than 90 countries. It is the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.
November 2002: Homeland Security Act
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 is introduced in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent mailings of anthrax spores. The act is co-sponsored by 118 members of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush Nov. 2002. The Homeland Security Act creates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the new cabinet-level position of secretary of homeland security.
2003 - 2005
March 2003: U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially begins operations
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's mission is to prevent terrorism and enhance security; secure and manage U.S. borders; enforce and administer U.S. immigration laws; safeguard and secure cyberspace; and ensure resilience to disasters. March 1, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is created through the integration of all or part of 22 different federal agencies and programs into a unified, integrated department. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security absorbed the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service and assumed their duties. In doing so, it divided the enforcement and services functions of the two legacy agencies and created three new agencies: Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Michael J. Garcia nominated as the assistant secretary for Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
In March 2003 President Bush appoints Michael J. Garcia as the assistant secretary of homeland security for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and he is unanimously confirmed by the Senate, Nov. 2003. Garcia served as Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from Dec. 2002 to Feb. 2003 before it was integrated into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. From Aug. 2001 to Nov. 2002, he was the top federal enforcer of dual-use export control laws as the assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement.
- Detention and Removal Operations establishes the first eight Fugitive Operations Teams. They arrest 1,900 illegal aliens.
- Five of the agency’s “Most Wanted” criminal aliens are captured by Detention and Removal Operations officers in less than a month.
- The first special agent training graduation is held, marking the graduation of the first class of special agents.
- Office of Investigations launches Cornerstone, an outreach initiative to identify vulnerabilities in financial systems through which criminals launder their illicit proceeds.
- Office of Investigations launches Operation Predator, an initiative to protect children from sexual predators by targeting child pornographers, child-sex tourists and people involved in all levels of child pornography.
- A tip line is launched to collect tips in support of Operation Predator.
- The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor secures a removal order against Juan Emilio Aboy, a known Cuban spy.
- The National Fugitive Operations Program adds 10 additional Fugitive Operations Teams to bring the number of teams to 18.
- The Alternatives to Detention Program is established. This tool uses technology and case management to increase compliance with release conditions and facilitate alien compliance with final orders while allowing aliens to remain in their communities.
- The Northern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force moves into the Cyber Crimes Center.
- The General Counsel Electronic Management System, a web-based case management tool, is deployed in all 26 Office of the Principal Legal Advisor’s Chief Counsel Offices.
- The agency becomes a board member and the primary U.S. law enforcement representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to combat online child sexual abuse.
- The National Fugitive Operations Program adds 26 additional Fugitive Operations Teams to bring the total number of teams to 44. The teams arrest 7,959 illegal aliens.
- Office of Investigations, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, begins conducting cross-border, financial investigation trainings around the world.
- The Border Enforcement Security Task Force is created.
- The case for removal of Kelbessa Negewo, who used fraud to obtain asylum, permanent residency and naturalization in the U.S., is secured through the work of Atlanta’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor.
- The agency launches Operation Community Shield after a threat assessment by field offices identified Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the country.
2006 - 2008
January 2006: Julie L. Myers is appointed assistant secretary for Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
In Jan. 2006 President George Bush appointed Julie L. Myers as assistant secretary of homeland security for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Prior to her appointment, Myers served as special assistant to the president for presidential personnel. Before that, she served as assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Department of Commerce. In that role, Myers supervised a nationwide law enforcement agency that specialized in export control violation, both civil and criminal.
- Detention and Removal Operations initiates the Detention Enforcement and Processing of Offenders by Remote Technology Center in Chicago to serve as the designated centralized interview and processing site for convicted criminal aliens incarcerated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- The Fugitive Operations Support Center is established to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Fugitive Operations Program.
- The Electronic Monitoring Program, an alternative to detention is initiated.
- The 287(g) program, which allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE to perform immigration law enforcement functions within their jurisdictions, is created.
- The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor headquarters provides 40 hours of customs law training for all of its offices.
- Operation Wagon Train, one of the largest worksite enforcement operations in U.S. history, is launched.
January 29, 2007: ICE removes Majid Al-Massari
ICE removed Majid Al-Massari, 35, a native and citizen of Saudi Arabia belonging to an undesignated terrorist organization. Al-Massari was ordered removed June 30, 2005, and was removed Jan. 29, 2007. At the time of his arrest, Al-Massari was a Seattle area computer security specialist who used his cyber skills to engage in terrorist activities. He purposely used his computer and communications skills to advance the terrorist goals of the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights and incite hatred against other groups of people. Al-Massari moderated an Internet chatroom for members of the group and posted Al Qaeda's weekly magazine at his site.
March: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement renamed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security changes the name of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
June: Detention and Removal Operations assumes programmatic responsibility of the Criminal Alien Program from the Office of Investigations
Detention and Removal Operations assumes responsibility for the Criminal Alien Apprehension Program June 1. ICE aims to arrest and remove criminal aliens by securing a final order of removal before they are released from prison or jail. Identifying and processing incarcerated criminal aliens, prior to release from jails and prisons, decreases or eliminates the time spent in ICE custody, which reduces the overall cost to the federal government.
September: ICE implements the electronic travel document system, significantly reducing the amount of time required for partner countries to issue a travel document
Sept. 1, 2007 ICE launches their electronic travel document system, a system used to review travel document requests and issue travel documents electronically.
October: The National Fugitive Operations Program, with significant assistance from the Fugitive Operations Support Center, reduces the nation's fugitive alien population for the first time
As of Oct. 1, 2007, ICE's fugitive case backlog consisted of less than 595,000 fugitive aliens, which was approximately 38,000 fewer fugitives than the population recorded Oct. 1, 2006.
ICE established the first Fugitive Operations Teams in 2003 to expand the agency's efforts to locate, arrest and remove fugitives from the United States.
December: Value of counterfeit or pirated merchandize seizures increases by more than 20% compared to 2006 totals
Although the total number of seizures dropped from 14,675 in 2006 to 13,657 in 2007, the total value of those seizures increased from $155,369,236 to $196,754,377.
July: National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center opens in Virginia
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-led Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center co-locates, for the first time, the regulators and law enforcement agencies that work to protect public safety and national security by stopping the importation of counterfeit, substandard and tainted products and the theft of intellectual property. The IPR Center's early partners include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Commerce, Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
November: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opens new headquarters
Employees and guests celebrate U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's move to a new headquarters building, Potomac Center North, in southwest Washington, D.C. This new building gives the growing agency the space and resources it needs to fulfill its expanding mission.
- The Criminal Alien Program initiates the Violent Criminal Alien Section to enforce violations of criminal immigration law found through the enforcement activities of Detention and Removal Operations.
- Secure Communities, an initiative to modernize the process used in identification and removal begins planning its first activations.
- ICE signs a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam, allowing for the repatriation of Vietnamese citizens who entered the United States on or after July 12, 1995.
- The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor facilitates the creation of the ICE Suspension and Debarment Program.
- An ICE investigation leads to the conviction of Chuckie Taylor, an American citizen and the son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who was charged with five counts of torture, conspiracy to torture and two federal firearm offenses for his role in the torture and murder of several victims in Liberia during his father’s regime.
- ICE’s Operation Devil Horns leads to the indictment of twenty-two individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area on federal racketeering and other charges arising from their participation in the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang.
2009 - 2012
May 12, 2009: John T. Morton is appointed assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
John Morton was unanimously confirmed as assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the Senate on May 12, 2009. Prior to his appointment by the president, Morton spent 15 years at the Department of Justice. At the Department of Justice, Morton served in several positions including assistant United States attorney, counsel to the deputy attorney general and acting deputy assistant attorney general of the criminal division. His title changed to director July 2010.
- Secure Communities activates the first jurisdiction in Harris County, Texas.
- Detention and Removal Operations removes John Demjanjuk, a former Nazi death camp guard, to Germany through a court order of removal obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- National Bulk Cash Smuggling Center is established in Vermont.
- The Cyber Crimes Center launches Operation Delego, which dismantles an international pedophile ring that operated an invitation-only Internet site named Dreamboard.
- The Computer Forensic Program institutes a hard drive repair program for situations where the retrieval of digital evidence would otherwise be inaccessible.
- The Victim Assistance Program establishes the Forensic Interview Program to support investigations involving victims and witnesses of child exploitation and human trafficking cases.
- ICE removes Khalid Al-Jawary to Sudan as a result of successful prosecution by Office of the Principal Legal Advisor attorneys. Al-Jawary attempted to bomb three different buildings in the United States by using large car bombs.
June: Inside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the two largest directorates are renamed
Detention and Removal Operations is renamed Enforcement and Removal Operations and Office of Investigations is renamed Homeland Security Investigations. In a message to employees about the name changes, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Morton says that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be better able to fulfill its mission if it is aligned around its two core operational responsibilities of criminal investigations and civil immigration enforcement.
- Detention and Removal Operations is renamed Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Office of Investigations is renamed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
- Workforce Management Division merges Office of Investigations, Office of Intelligence and Office of International Affairs under Homeland Security Investigations.
- Management and Administration directorate is formed.
- The On-Site Detention Monitoring Unit is established in response to Director Morton’s initiative on immigration detention reform to enhance oversight and care of detainees in ICE custody.
- ICE launches its Online Detainee Locator System, a public, Internet-based tool designed to assist family members, attorneys and other interested parties in locating detained aliens in ICE custody.
- HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center launches Operation In Our Sites, an initiative aimed at combatting Internet counterfeiting and piracy.
- HSI-led Operation Pacific Rim results in 24 indictments and seizures totaling more than $174 million in cash, 3.8 tons of cocaine and $179 million in property. The operation targeted a major drug trafficking organization.
- The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor successfully prosecutes and removes Marko Boskic, a Bosnian Croat soldier who participated in the murder of more than 1,000 Muslim men and boys outside Srebrenica in July 1995.
- ERO launches first national Operation Cross Check, a large-scale operation targeting convicted criminal aliens. ERO arrests 5,343 criminal aliens.
- ERO Phoenix and El Paso offices begin collaborating with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the Alien Transfer and Exit Program.
- There are 36,587 subsequent Alien Transfer and Exit Program removals.
- ICE’s HSI-led Project Southern Tempest leads to the arrest of the 20,000th gang member since the inception of Operation Community Shield.
- Tyson Foods, Inc., which employs almost 100,000 people at locations throughout the United States, is the first major food company to become a full member of the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers or IMAGE program.
- ICE Personnel Recovery Unit is launched to guide ICE employees and their families on emergency planning while overseas.
- Cyber Crimes Center launches the Victim Identification Program as part of its Child Exploitation Investigations Unit.
- HSI’s Tactical and Wireless Communications Program takes possession of the first of three Mobile Command Center vehicles specifically designed to support communications during large-scale operations, contingencies and natural disaster call-outs.
- Office of the Principal Legal Advisor attorneys help review and revise ICE’s existing performance based national detention standard on the prevention of sexual abuse and assault.
- The Criminal Alien Removal Initiative is established, which adds 25 more Fugitive Operations Teams to the National Fugitive Operations Program, bringing the total number of teams to 129.
- Fugitive Operations Teams make a total of 37,371 arrests, their largest total of criminal arrests in a single year.
- ICE opens its first civil detention facility in Karnes, Texas, marking a major milestone in the agency’s long-time effort toward immigration detention reform.
- HSI’s Forensic Laboratory achieves accreditation through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board.
- Cyber Crimes Center launches Operation Sunflower to identify and rescue victims, and to arrest and seek prosecutions for their abusers and others engaged in the possession, distribution and production of child pornography.
- ICE is appointed the chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce.
- HSI Technical Operations builds a new high-tech facility complete with a new Technical Operations Surveillance Network that houses HSI systems to provide greater reliability in support of investigations worldwide.
- Visa Security Program screens approximately 1.3 million visa applications worldwide.
- The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor completes the review of more than 400,000 cases and approximately 13,000 appellate cases for eligibility for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
2013: ICE's First Decade
March: 10th anniversary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recognized by President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama recognizes the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies in a presidential proclamation, calling on all Americans to recognize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for improving America's readiness and resilience.
September: ICE launches smartphone app to locate predators, rescue children from sexual abuse and exploitation
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched a new smartphone app – the first of its kind in U.S. federal law enforcement – designed to seek the public's help with fugitive and unknown suspect child predators.
October: Veteran "HEROs" join ICE efforts to bring child predators to justice
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers joined U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Sandweg, U.S. Special Operations Command Director of the Care Coalition Kevin McDonnell and National Association to Protect Children Executive Director Grier Weeks in a swearing in ceremony for 17 veterans – many of whom were wounded in the line of duty – as part of the inaugural class of Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps, or HERO Corps.
2014 - 2017
January: Federal agencies seize more than $21.6 million in fake NFL merchandise during "Operation Team Player"
Federal officials teamed with the National Football League (NFL) to announce the record-breaking results of a nationwide law enforcement effort aimed at combatting counterfeit sports merchandise.
March: Thomas S. Winkowski is appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Thomas S. Winkowski is appointed as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of ICE by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Prior to assuming responsibility for ICE, Winkowski held a series of leadership positions during his nearly four decades with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its predecessor agencies, including as Acting Commissioner of CBP.
March: ICE launches national cyber safety campaign to help protect kids from online sexual predators
Representatives from federal and local law enforcement, along with a leading children's advocacy organization, announced the launch of Project iGuardian, a first-of-its-kind national cyber safety campaign spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
June: 22 arrested in New Mexico for operating international car theft ring connected to Sinaloa drug cartel
Twenty-two people were arrested in the Albuquerque area and throughout New Mexico during the takedown of a major international auto theft and drug trafficking ring with ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel. Those arrested face charges for their alleged roles in a large scale car theft scheme that shipped stolen luxury vehicles from New Mexico to Mexico in exchange for methamphetamine and heroin.
September: ICE expands reach of smartphone app designed to locate child predators and rescue their victims
The Operation Predator app was made available for Android smartphones, and in Spanish for both Apple and Android versions. The app also provides additional resources about HSI and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.
ICE arrests 19 fugitives across US during “Operation No Safe Haven”
ICE arrested 19 fugitives sought for their roles in known or suspected human rights violations during a first-of-its-kind nationwide operation targeting these individuals in multiple cities across the United States. During the operation, ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP) worked in coordination with the ICE Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). The foreign nationals arrested during the operation all had outstanding removal orders and are subject to repatriation to their countries of origin. Of the 19 known or suspected human rights violators arrested during Operation No Safe Haven, eight individuals were also convicted criminal aliens.
Large-scale law enforcement effort targets downtown Los Angeles businesses linked to money laundering for drug cartels
Approximately 1,000 law enforcement officials fanned out across the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles to execute dozens of search and arrest warrants linked to businesses suspected of using "Black Market Peso Exchange" (BMPE) schemes to launder narcotics proceeds for international drug cartels. During the enforcement actions, authorities arrested nine defendants and seized what is estimated to be at least $65 million in cash and bank deposits stemming from asset forfeiture actions filed as part of the ongoing investigations.
October: ICE arrests 62 criminal aliens and immigration violators during 3-day central and south Texas enforcement operation
ERO officers arrested 62 criminal aliens, fugitives and other immigration violators in central and south Texas during a three-day multi-city enforcement operation.
December: Sarah R. Saldaña sworn in as fourth director of ICE
On December 23, Sarah R. Saldaña is sworn in as the director of ICE.
Prior to assuming responsibility for ICE, Director Saldaña served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. In that position, she led a staff of more than 200 employees, including approximately 100 attorneys.
March: 2,059 convicted criminals arrested in ICE nationwide operation
A five-day nationwide operation targeting convicted criminal aliens subject to removal from the United States yielded the arrest of 2,059 convicted criminals. The operation was led by ICE’s ERO.
The operation, dubbed “Cross Check,” began Sunday, March 1, and ended Thursday, March 5. Hundreds of ERO officers participated in the operation that focused on the arrests of public safety threats. Those arrested are from 94 countries and have a wide array of criminal convictions.
ICE arrests wanted child predator following public tip
William Akers was identified by a member of the public who told investigators that he was employed in the Information Technology department of a Raleigh company. Within hours of the tip, HSI Raleigh special agents confirmed that Akers was indeed the John Doe who appeared in the video and arrested him while he was working the night shift at his company.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrests 200th criminal alien convicted of sex crime under Sex Offender Registration Initiative
One of ICE’s priorities is arresting child predators and bringing them to a court of law where they face justice, or in some cases, sending them back to their home countries.
ERO’s Sex Offender Registration (SOR) initiative, which started in 2013, resulted in the arrest of 200 criminal aliens convicted of sex crimes in March 2015.
April: ICE arrests 976 gang members and associates during 'Project Wildfire' surge
Nearly 1,000 gang members and associates from 239 different gangs were arrested in 282 cities across the U.S. during Project Wildfire, a six-week operation led by ICE’s HSI. The operation targeted transnational criminal gangs and others associated with transnational criminal activity.
August: ICE 'most wanted fugitive' arrested in Virginia
ERO arrested one of its most wanted fugitives, a convicted sex offender, in Norfolk. Walter Antonio Larios-Hernandez, 34, a citizen of El Salvador, was arrested after ERO officers located him outside of a residence in Norfolk. Larios-Hernandez was convicted in New Mexico of criminal sexual penetration of a child in 2003 and had separate convictions in Virginia including a conviction for driving under the influence in 2007. Larios-Hernandez was added to the ERO most wanted fugitives list in March 2015 after he eluded capture during a nationwide ERO operation targeting criminal aliens.
October: Feds shutter highly sophisticated smuggling tunnel south of San Diego
Federal agents with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force and Mexican authorities shut down one of the longest and most sophisticated smuggling tunnels ever discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border, seizing 12 tons of marijuana and arresting 22 suspects. The tunnel extended the length of approximately eight footballs fields, from a warehouse in Tijuana to a building in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial park. The reinforced passageway featured lighting, ventilation equipment and a rail cart transportation system.
November: West Michigan fugitives surrender after being profiled on ICE's smartphone app to locate accused child predators
A west Michigan pair, who absconded during a federal child pornography investigation, are arrested after they surrendered to local authorities.
Authorities followed up on several tips in the intervening week after the pair was added to the Operation Predator app but their exact whereabouts remained unknown.
March: ICE arrests more than 1,100 in operation targeting gangs
A five-week operation, dubbed Project Shadowfire, netted 1,133 arrests, including more than 900 transnational criminal gang members and others associated with transnational criminal activity, like drug trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking, murder and racketeering. The operation was led by HSI.
April: 21 charged with fraudulently enabling hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in US through fake “pay-to-stay” New Jersey college
Twenty-one brokers, recruiters, and employers were arrested from across the United States, who allegedly conspired with more than a thousand foreign nationals to fraudulently maintain student and foreign worker visas through a “pay-to-stay” New Jersey college. The arrests resulted from an extensive probe led by HSI.
June: ICE, US Marshals arrest 45 international fugitives with Interpol notices
Forty-five foreign fugitives – all subjects of active Interpol notices for individuals wanted in connection with criminal activity – were arrested across the United States by ERO and the U.S. Marshals Service. “Project Red II” targeted individuals with Interpol red notices and others wanted for serious crimes within Interpol member countries. A red notice serves as an international wanted notice and provides information on the identification of fugitives charged with or convicted of serious crimes who have fled prosecution or the serving of their sentence.
The 45 individuals arrested during Project Red II were wanted for crimes in 22 different countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Sixteen were wanted on various fraud charges, seven were wanted for homicide and four for illegal gang activity. Other alleged crimes included drug trafficking, rape, embezzlement, extortion and kidnapping.
#WhyIServe: ICE commemorates 15th Anniversary of September 11
For ICE employees, the prevention of another 9/11 is the reason many go to work each day. The very existence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and ICE, is the result of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. Each day ICE employees are responsible for investigating and enforcing the nation’s laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration. The primary focus of their work is homeland security and public safety. These are their personal accounts of their experiences on 9/11, and why they choose to serve America today.
October: ICE investigation results in 17 sex trafficking indictments in Minnesota
A federal indictment unsealed charged 17 members of an international sex trafficking organization with transporting hundreds of female sex slaves from Thailand and trafficking them throughout the United States.
December: ICE arrests more than 400 international fugitives in FY2016
The United States has 406 fewer foreign fugitives on the loose thanks to the work of ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP) team members. The number of foreign fugitives they have arrested has increased from 74 in fiscal year 2011 to 406 in fiscal year 2016. Working together with domestic and international law enforcement partners, including the team at ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has proven to be a recipe for success.
January: ICE arrests nearly 2,000 human traffickers in 2016, identifies more than 400 victims across the United States
In Fiscal Year 2016, HSI arrested 1,952 individuals for human trafficking – the illegal trade and exploitation of people for commercial gain, most commonly in the form of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. From those cases, more than 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical services.
2017 marks the seventh anniversary of January as National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention month. ICE participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year.
February: ICE 'most wanted fugitive' captured in New Jersey
ERO Newark Fugitive Operations team officers arrested one of ERO's most wanted fugitives. Javier Atlixqueno-Vaquero, 37, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested after ERO identified Vaquero leaving his residence. He is a convicted felon for the crimes of sexual assault with a minor, felony sale of hallucinogen/narcotic controlled substance, and felony failure to appear.
2018 - 2021
Joint Operation nets 24 transnational gang members, 475 total arrests
Twenty-four were arrested under Operation Matador, the intelligence driven, unified effort to combat the proliferation of MS-13 and other transnational criminal gang activity in Long Island, the New York City metropolitan area and Hudson Valley. This brings the total arrested under this initiative to 475. The arrests were led by HSI.
ICE HSI New York operation leads to arrests of 3 dozen Darknet vendors selling illicit goods, weapons, drugs seized and more than $23.6 million
Homeland Security Investigations in New York, working with its law enforcement partners, conducted an unprecedented operation to infiltrate and destabilize U.S.-based Darknet vendor operating across multiple markets around the country.
Salvadoran MS-13 affiliate and Irish national removed two public safety threats to their respective countries of origin
ERO officers removed Andrew Wall, an Irish national and member of the organized crime syndicate "Cock-Wall Gang," and transferred him to the custody of local authorities at Ireland's Dublin Airport. ERO officers also removed Frank Adonay Gonzalez Valdez, an El Salvadoran national with MS-13 affiliations. read more
ICE and DOJ return Christopher Columbus letter to Spain
HSI and U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware returned a more than 500-year-old copy of Christopher Columbus' letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to the Vatican during a repatriation ceremony at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (the "Vatican Library") in Vatican City.
HSI El Paso, Border Patrol agents arrest 18 alien smugglers, 117 illegal aliens; seize cash, vehicles, drugs
HSI and agents with U.S. Border Patrol arrested 18 alien smugglers and seized cash, vehicles and more than 1,000 lbs. of marijuana last month in a joint effort.
Special agents assigned to HSI El Paso's human smuggling group and Border Patrol agents, who are part of HSI's Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), worked together to identify, locate and arrest smugglers operating alien smuggling organizations in southern New Mexico and the El Paso area.
More than 5,200 I-9 audit notices delivered to businesses across the US
A two-phase nationwide operation in which I-9 audit notices were served to more than 5,200 businesses around the country since January. A notice of inspection (NOI) informs business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with existing law. This extensive probe was led by HSI.
Former Nazi labor camp guard Jakiw Palij removed to Germany
Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland and a postwar resident of Queens, New York, was removed to Germany. ICE removed Palij based on an order of removal obtained by the Department of Justice in 2004.
ICE arrests 32 sex offenders in Long Island during Operation SOAR
Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested 32 convicted sexual predators during a 10-day period in an enforcement effort dubbed "Operation SOAR" (Sex Offender Alien Removal).
ICE "Most Wanted" fugitive, child predator captured in Louisiana
ICE, Coast Guard; CBP seize 2,325 pounds of cocaine in Puerto Rico
HSI working jointly with the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) partners, seized 2,325 pounds of cocaine, from a go-fast vessel near Las Paulinas Beach in the municipality of Luquillo. The cocaine has an estimated street value of $29.6 million.
ICE, CBP operation nets over $24 million in fake sports-related merchandise
Collaborative enforcement efforts resulted in the seizure of nearly 285,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $24.2 million, and related investigations led to 28 arrests with 21 convictions. These efforts were led by HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman found guilty on all charges in US Court
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, the boss of the Sinaloa Cartel, also known by various aliases, including "El Chapo" and "El Rapido," was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn of being a principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise, a count that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy, through his leadership of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzman Loera was convicted of all 10 counts of a superseding indictment, including charges of narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy. The verdict followed a 12-week trial in United States District Court.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Thailand Department of Special Investigation, Australian Federal Police and INTERPOL announce results of international child exploitation investigation
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), participated in a joint press conference to address recent activity regarding child exploitation targeted in Operation Blackwrist.
Operation Blackwrist, which was named after a bracelet worn by one of the victims, was launched by INTERPOL in 2017 following the discovery of material depicting the abuse of 11 boys, all under 13 years old.
Arms trafficker convicted in anti-aircraft missiles scheme and of other arms offenses sentenced to 30 years in prison
A black-market arms dealer with a long history of brokering machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank armaments – and who was found guilty in 2018 in a scheme to sell and use surface-to-air missiles – was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
The evidence showed that Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem, 53, a naturalized United States citizen who was living in Egypt at the time of the offenses, conspired to transfer a wide array of surface-to-air missile systems to customers around the world, including clients in Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and the leadership of Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
ICE HSI Tampa supports area schools during Great American Teach-In
Hundreds of children in the Tampa Bay area learned more about the role of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) during the Great American Teach-In in November 2019.
The events across the region were also supported by many DHS partner agencies. HSI’s Tampa’s participation included special agents and computer forensic analysts speaking at area schools in support of the Teach-In.
The purpose of the Teach-In is to encourage employees, businesses, community leaders, sports figures, local personalities, retirees, community volunteers and parents to become involved in education by sharing what they know with a new generation.
Georgia man sentenced for transporting drugs disguised as children's candy
A Georgia man was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for illegally transporting 41.97 kilograms of 100% pure methamphetamine and 4.5 kilograms of heroin that had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico, concealed in what appeared to be shrink-wrapped, bulk packaged children’s candy.
Cleveland James McKinney, 30, of Atlanta, traveled to Brandon, Mississippi to retrieve a drug shipment that originated in Mexico and entered the United States through Brownsville, Texas.
ICE shifts enforcement posture in response to COVID-19 pandemic
To ensure the welfare and safety of the general public as well as officers and agents in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will temporarily adjust its enforcement posture beginning March 18, 2020. ICE's highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will focus enforcement on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds. Homeland Security Investigations will continue to carry out mission critical criminal investigations and enforcement operations as determined necessary to maintain public safety and national security. Learn more.
ICE HSI launches online resource page to combat COVID-19 fraud
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched a dedicated “Operation Stolen Promise” web page Monday to provide information to the public on COVID-19-related fraud schemes.
HSI’s S.T.O.P. COVID-19 Fraud campaign, a key public outreach component of Operation Stolen Promise, is also highlighted on the page. The campaign relays critical information to the public related to COVID-19 fraud and criminal activity. The campaign provides facts, tips and red flags, and guides the public on how to recognize potential fraud, protect themselves and report tips to authorities.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations Fresno catches 34 online predators in Operation Covid Chatdown
Operation Covid Chatdown resulted in 34 men being arrested in Fresno, California for soliciting sexual acts from individuals they believed were 12- or 13-year-old children but were actually undercover law enforcement operatives.
These 34 men traveled by foot, skateboard, bike, or vehicle to meet 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls, who turned out to be law enforcement operatives with badges, guns and handcuffs. However, a number of the arrested individuals admitted to victimizing real children during previous attempts.
The Center for Countering Human Trafficking launched in October
In October 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT). The CCHT, led by HSI, aims to capitalize on HSI’s operational expertise in human trafficking and forced labor fraud investigations, while utilizing a whole-of-government approach to combatting these crimes. The CCHT will enhance investigative coordination, increase public outreach awareness and effectiveness, support victim assistance programs, provide specialized training, and increase partnerships with key stakeholders.
Human Rights Violators
In Feb., ICE ERO officers removed 95-year-old Friedrich Karl Berger to Germany. Berger, a German citizen, participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution while serving in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in Neuengamme. He was ordered removed from the U.S. in Feb. 2020 after investigative work by HSI and ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC).
HRVWCC is the only government entity dedicated to investigating human rights violations and war crimes. Track their cases →
Stealing a nation’s cultural property and antiquities is one of the oldest forms of organized transnational crime. In 2021, ICE, working with the U.S. Department of State, repatriated a trove of stolen artifacts to the Republic of Mali Nov. 22; returned stolen ancient artifacts to Iraq in Sept.; and returned two ancient Thai lintels to Thailand in June.
ICE investigations this year also led to the first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities for one of the world’s largest ancient art collectors.
Since 2007, ICE’s HSI has recovered and returned over 15,000 artifacts to more than 40 countries and institutions. Learn more →
HERO Corps Program
23 military veterans graduated in November from the eleventh class of the ICE HERO Corps internship program, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic. The program recruits, trains and hires wounded, ill or injured transitioning active-duty service members and military veterans for employment as computer forensic analysts to combat child exploitation. Learn more about the program →
Operation Stolen Promise
Through Operation Stolen Promise, HSI and federal partners continue to disrupt fraudulent COVID-19-related vaccines and treatments, PPE, small business loans, unemployment claims and other criminal activity aimed at siphoning benefits from Americans who need them during the pandemic. Through the end of 2021, 53 websites related to vaccine fraud have been removed and $58.6 million in proceeds tied to COVID-19 fraud have been seized.
Operation Sex Offender Arrest and Removal (SOAR) is a coordinated foreign-born sex offender enforcement operation that builds on ICE’s ongoing efforts to target and remove these egregious criminal noncitizens from our communities. In June, July, and August, ICE ERO performed 495 at-large arrests of sex offenders compared to 194 over that same period the previous year. Approximately 80% of the 495 arrests were for crimes against children. By focusing our resources on those who have committed sex crimes and demonstrated predatory behavior, we reinforce our steadfast commitment to enhancing public safety across the United States.