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Episode 1: Careers at ICE 101

Careers at ICE

Careers at ICE |

During the first episode of the “Careers at ICE” podcast, hear from Joe Arata, the Chief of National Employee Recruitment and Retention for ICE.


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>> Welcome to the Inaugural Careers at ICE podcast. This podcast highlights career opportunities at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the hiring process, and how to put your best foot forward. Our guest today is Mr. Jose Arata, chief of National Employee Recruitment and Retention for ICE. Today, we'll learn about the various career options at ICE and practical information about the application and hiring process.

On the ICE website, at, check out the Career section to read an in-depth list and frequently asked questions, and see a list of the most current job announcements. Now let us get the conversation started.

Thanks for being here today, Joe. Can you tell me a little bit about ICE and what kinds of jobs there are at the agency?

>> Sure. Thanks for having me. ICE is one of the law enforcement components of the Department of Homeland Security, and we have two major law enforcement components within ICE; one is Homeland Security Investigations and one is Enforcement Removal Operations. Both of those components have very unique missions, both within ICE and within the Department. Surrounding those law enforcement missions are the mission operational support folks that make them function every day. So you can't do a mission in the field in the law enforcement world without folks giving you intelligence, without folks providing human resource -- things like payroll and retirement benefits and other benefits that come with the job. You have folks that are supporting them in the field as well; Digital Forensics for our investigations. When I talk about ICE, a lot of times I tell, we've got just about every job that you can imagine that not only do the law enforcement mission, but also law enforcement support mission. It's an exciting place to work. We're the third largest component of the Department of Homeland Security, yet our mission is transnational. We have folks all around the world conducting investigations and enforcement operations, so it's probably one of the more exciting places to work in the Department, as well as, I believe, probably one of the most important national security missions we have.

>> Great, thank you. Well, so ICE is a federal law enforcement agency. As we know, there are various federal law enforcement agencies. What makes ICE different, and what makes working at ICE different than working at other federal law enforcement agencies?

>> I think the complexity of the mission makes ICE very different comparing it to other law enforcement agencies. We enforce over 400 statutes, which is a very large amount of criminal statutes that you can use to combat a lot of different things. On the Homeland Security Investigations side, we're fighting transnational criminal activities. We're fighting financial crimes, intellectual property, child exploitation -- human trafficking, human slavery. Those are things that a lot of people do not see as part of the ICE mission. The Enforcement and Removal Operations is not just deportation and detaining of criminal aliens. It is going into neighborhoods [INAUDIBLE] task force, and finding some of the most violent criminal aliens. It is an international footprint for both ERO and HSI.

I think what draws people to ICE in lieu of other law enforcement agencies is, it is an exciting, complex law enforcement mission. Every day can be something different. Every day you have the satisfaction of securing this nation.

>> Great. Well, that tells me a lot about the law enforcement side. But I know that every law enforcement agency also has administrative supportive positions. Can you talk a little bit about the non-gun carrying positions that people might be interested in coming to work for ICE, and the other ways that they can work for this dynamic agency?

>> Sure. The amount of positions that we have from a support side are tremendous. Right off the top, we have a lot of attorneys. Our Officer Principal Legal Advisor has a tremendous amount of different tasks both for prosecution, as well as working for agency and agency issues. But like most agencies, or any organization, we have folks that need to be paid. We have folks that need to be hired. We have folks that, like yourself, work for Public Affairs. I think that whatever your background -- and I think this is something unique with ICE as well -- we have people from a tremendous amount of different backgrounds that fit into a role at ICE. You may be an Intelligence Research Specialist for the Military -- well, we have an Intelligence Research Specialist job here. You may be a human resource person, or a human resource specialist in corporate America -- we have a job for you here. You may be coming out of a college or a university and have a degree, but don't really know what you want to do with that degree. We have a lot of initial entry positions that may fit your skillset, or may be something that starts you into a direction that will lead your career to other places.

>> Great. Well, federal employees have some pretty good benefits. Can you talk a little bit about those, and whether or not the law enforcement positions have different benefits?

>> Law enforcement -- I'll address that first -- law enforcement has a different retirement program. They will contribute more to their retirement, but they also have the opportunity to retire sooner than the non-law enforcement folks. There is a requirement that they only go 20 years, to 57, so we have a cutoff age of 37. Sometimes that is extended to 40 as well, so your retirement would be at 60, your mandatory retirement.

For the non-gun-carrying positions, there is no mandatory retirement. Their retirement is a little different. But everybody gets to contribute to our TSP, which is basically the civilian IRA program. You do have a pension. You have very good health care benefits as well, some educational benefits. I think one of the other things, too, we see in the government, especially in the non-law enforcement positions, is the opportunity to grow not just in the career field you choose, but if you went back and got a master's degree or a doctorate, there are other places you can work with in the organization; and if not at ICE, somewhere within the Department that would need that type of skill.

>> Great. And you've talked about veterans a bit. Are there any special hiring preferences for veterans?

>> Yes, there are. First of all, I would like to say that ICE makes great effort to hire and retain our veterans, and very proud that our number of veteran employees is about a third of our workforce. I think they come here because of the nature of what we do, and a very good future after military service. Veterans have a variety of hiring authorities that we can use to bring them on. We work with the Department of Defense and the Operation War Fighter program, which is an Internship program where if they leave service and they meet the requirements for a job, that we can use special hiring authority to bring them on. However, having said that, our hiring managers have the option to use any of these veterans' programs, or veterans' authorities to bring on candidates.

>> Great. And you talked about this a little bit, but are there special hiring opportunities specifically for veterans and students as well?

>> Sure. Students -- there is a student program. It's called the Pathways program. There's a variety of different programs, Presidential Management Fellowship program is for folks that are master's degree level. Then the Recent Grads program and the Internship program under Pathways are for college students that are nearing graduation, or have just recently graduated. All of those programs, the veterans and the student programs, can be found on our Careers page.

>> Great. Well, now that the folks listening to this podcast are interested in applying, how do they apply for jobs at ICE?

>> Our jobs are all posted on, what I recommend to people is to go out on USAJobs and to, first of all, put a resume out there. Get all the information that's required for an application in your profile on USAJobs. The second thing I tell them is to set up a search for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and also Department of Homeland Security, because sometimes the announcement comes out and it's picked out by USAJobs under a different type of -- whether it's Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When those jobs are announced, if you feel you are minimally qualified -- and that will tell you in the position description -- apply. I think the greatest disservice you can do to yourself as an application is not to apply for a job. I think you're better off being told you're not qualified, and figuring out how you could get better qualified for a job, than it is to wait for what you think is the correct job. A lot of times we find people that wait for that one special job, and they were qualified for a lot of other ones. So I always recommend to any applicant apply for the job, and if you feel you're qualified, you're application will be reviewed, and you will be told whether you qualify for not. Or if you're not, it's giving you the information to figure out how to get qualified. If you are, you'll go into the hiring process and the interview process.

>> Oh, that's great advice, thank you. One last question for you -- how can potential employees learn more about working for ICE?

>> In a lot of different ways. So ICE has a great Public Affairs process, not only on our Careers page, but we have Twitter, we are on LinkedIn, we're on Facebook. I would recommend to anybody, especially in the age of social media, to link in with us, to follow us on Twitter, follow us on Facebook, as well as set up a special link on your computer as well for\Careers.

>> Great. Well, Mr. Arata, thank you for sharing your expertise with us today. Please join us next time on Careers at ICE to learn more about the agency and how to start your career in law enforcement.

>> Thank you.