During this episode of Careers at ICE, hear from Deportation Officer Ayeisha Ramirez and Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer Christian Rodriguez, who talk about what it’s like to be a deportation officer with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.
>> Hi. Our mission is to apprehend, detain, and remove criminal persons who violate immigration law. We do this by enforcing and administering immigration law, by preventing terrorism, and focusing our investigations on persons who present a danger to national security or the threat to public safety. Most of the time, our investigations would lead us to convicted criminals, gang members who violate immigration law, reentry illegally, as well as we have the unique ability to… our agency also locates foreign fugitives who come here from other countries to hide.
>> And could you both share with our listeners what your current job is now, talk a little bit about your background, and how you got into this position?
>> Thank you. Well, currently I am a Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer. How I began in this career was about 27 years ago. I was at a college campus and a small, little table set up in the middle of nowhere, two folks that were there told me if I wanted a summer job… 27 years later, very long summer. Looking back on those years I have absolutely zero regrets and zero doubts about the career path that I’ve taken. I’ve had quite a few positions with INS and now Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and each one of them has shared a wealth of knowledge and a lot of rewards throughout the years.
>> And Ayeisha?
>> About 16 years ago I was in college, working part-time at American Airlines as a passenger service rep, and one of my responsibilities was to guide passengers off flights into immigration halls. And it was during that time that we had the opportunity to meet immigration inspectors who we would work side-by-side with each other, because any time we had any passenger that became inadmissible and they didn’t have the officers to assist with translation, it was then our responsibility to then translate those cases. We developed a friendship and basically the officers would advise myself and other agents when the announcements for positions would become available and that was, like, my introduction to immigration, and I would then apply to then later become an Immigration Inspector at JFK, and after several years working there I eventually became a Deportation Officer here in New York.
>> And you both have had significant accomplishments in your careers. Can you talk about some of your proudest achievements and talk a little more about what a typical day in your current position with ICE is now?
>> Currently I work with a Fugitive Operations Unit, which is a field unit. Most of my day is spent out in the field, locating fugitives who either are convicted criminals, sexual offenders, gang members, murderers. Sometimes our day leads us to go to court to obtain certified dispositions for some of our cases that we’re preparing. Depending on if we’re able to locate a person that we’re looking for, we might have to sit conducting surveillance. Also investigations, which may lead us to other leads and maybe have to then pursue those leads, whether it means driving to another borough, driving to another possible development where that person lives or works, until we’re able to complete and locate the person we’re looking for. When we’re not out in the field, the day will be in the office actually preparing cases and doing whatever further investigation is needed to complete that case. We also work very closely with our trial attorneys, making sure that we get legal sufficiency and that everything is according to the law, being that the law is constantly changing.
>> And Christian?
>> To mirror a little bit of the tasks and the duties that Ayeisha expanded upon, I am over the Order of Supervision unit. I supervise a cadre of about ten officers, and their responsibilities on a daily basis is to deal with the individuals who we have reporting on the day-to-day or sometimes month-to-month report cycle. While the Fugitive Operations Teams like Ayeisha discussed will focus on more of the egregious crimes and individuals that really present a danger to the public, I may focus on individuals who do have immigration matters that are either pending and may have some criminal issues pending but they don’t rise to the level of having been detained. So they’ll come and report to an officer and regularly provide us updates with what’s going on with the courts, what’s going on with their cases if they’re still fighting their cases criminally. Some of them may have attorneys that will come with them and present motions or stay requests for, you know, to prevent their removal. But, you know, they are constantly working with the public on a regular basis and that’s 365 days of the year we’ve got something going on, so we’re pretty busy in that aspect.
>> Now let’s talk a little bit more about some of the perceived challenges of having a career in federal law enforcement, things like work-life balance, schedules, work location, and how dangerous this career may be.
>> Okay, I’ll start with that one. Work-life balance is definitely, it takes its toll, you know. We often say, you know, that law enforcement is more of a calling than just a job or a wage. It’s something you have to really dedicate yourself to do. They often tell us in our trainings that we’re held to a higher standard because of the fact that we’re law enforcement. It endears us to have a bigger burden with regards to how our actions and how our behavior is perceived. And because we work sometimes exorbitant hours depending on whether, you know, we have an operation going on. You know, you can be here sometimes 12, 15, 16 hours at a time, so you have to really be able to have some real good time-management skills, so that especially if you’re a family man, like myself, you have the time for the little ones, you have the time for the family, you have the time for all the aspects of your life that have to balance out that work side, ’cause “all work and no play” is what the saying goes, I believe.
>> This question is for Ayeisha. Women are still a minority population in federal law enforcement. Talk about what being a female law enforcement officer means to you.
>> I feel as a female law enforcement officer, we play a critical role. Because of our presence, sometimes we’re able to deescalate situations. Sometimes I feel like when we do make arrests or we encounter persons that we’re interviewing, they may feel more comfortable or likely to speak with a female officer versus a male officer. We also provide a different perspective, sometimes, to situations as compared to the male officer. But ultimately we’re required to maintain the same standards and required to work together, and just because we’re a female officer does not give us any less reason not to perform our job to the same standard as a male officer. Sometimes I believe we’re held to a higher standard to make sure that we’re just as physically fit, we’re just as present if you, you know… not all the time, not everyone we encounter is compliant. But sometimes people we encounter just feel a little more comfortable talking about more personal issues with a female officer as they would with a male officer. I feel like we just give a certain balance but we’re also expected to do the same duties. There’s no favoritism in the fact that “oh, because you’re a female, you don’t have to handcuff” or “because you’re a female, you don’t need to fingerprint a person.” You’re expected to do the same job as the male officer’s supposed to do. But we just kind of give a certain balance where, when we do arrest people, we do encounter people, sometimes they feel more comfortable speaking with a female officer because maybe we just have a less threatening approach or more sensitive side as to maybe where a male officer wouldn’t.
>> And this question is for Christian. Can you talk a little bit about the process to become an ICE Deportation Officer? For example, what kind of training is required once you get accepted?
>> Well, our academic training is all done at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which we endearingly call FLETC. There’s a strong academic side. There is a physical aspect as well. There’s a mile and a half run that’s required, sit-ups, push-ups, wall. It’s not a position that just anyone can walk into, and most folks are dealing with a slight, I would say, detriment because some of the topics and materials that we academically go to learn, it’s not something that was covered during your 12 years or your college years. I mean, I know there are a lot of schools that have started academic degrees within Homeland Security but, you know, not much is discussed about immigration. So when you go to the academy, you’re pretty much starting with a clean slate, which, you know, in many aspects is more warranted and more desired because it’s easier to teach someone when they have no preconceived notions about what they’re supposed to do and what they’re not supposed to do. But we have a plethora of topics between naturalization, you’ll even learn about, you know, penal law, you’ll learn about different types of applications, you’ll learn about deportable charges and excludable charges and what, how that all fits together in a puzzle of enforcing the borders and enforcing, you know, who’s allowed to come into the United States and who’s not. And again, it’s five and a half months, you still learn Spanish as well, so there’s a component where you do have to have some language ability built into that. And even beyond the academy, when you come back, depending on what your field office is, they may or may not have some kind of post- or pre-instruction as well.
>> Some people listening may not think that they have the right kind of education or credentials for federal law enforcement. What is really needed to succeed in your field and is there any specific advice that you would give prospective candidates?
>> What’s great about our position and our job is that when you do go to the academy, you are going to learn everything you need to be proficient in your position. In terms of college, you can really major in any field. You might want to have, you know, some knowledge obviously in government, what’s going on in current law, any language skill’s obviously a benefit because we do encounter people from around the world. But ultimately, as long as you have the initiative and desire to learn and willing to put in the time and effort, you will be a successful officer. We don’t require that you major in any particular field, we just require that you show that you’ve been keeping busy, you have been working, you have been studying, and you just haven’t just been idle. But I think at this point what’s really important, too, besides having the ability to be proficient and academically sound, you should also be working out and be physically fit because our job is very demanding, especially now with all the, we have a lot of focus on us, especially when we’re out on the street, and we don’t have people that are being as complacent to come with us and there’s more, the nature outside is a little more hostile towards us than it was in the past.
>> And Christian, do you have any specific advice that you would give prospective candidates?
>> I would definitely say that, for anyone who’s not comfortable with their writing skills, that they should definitely develop and hone those. 90 percent of our job is being able to articulate the reasons as to why we do what we do, whether it be, you know, referencing a law that allows you to take an action or if you’re in some kind of situation where you have to go physical or hands-on with someone, you have to be able to articulate how you felt and what was going on and how that ties in to what our legal authority is. I often tell the folks that I work with and if I train anybody, I say, “Chances are you’re not going to get in trouble for what you do out in the field. You will get in trouble for your inability to articulate why you did what you did or how you did what you did.”
>> And is there anything else you’d like to say to anyone considering a career in federal law enforcement?
>> I would say for all federal government, never let anything that you hear or anyone that you speak to discourage you from seeking a career with law enforcement or with government per se. There are plenty, and I mean plethora, of opportunities, regardless of whatever field that you studied in. We have employees here who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Graphic Design. But they’re law enforcement officers. Life is one of those things where you never know what curve is going to be thrown at you, so you may have studied one thing but ended up somewhere else. Never discount the government or law enforcement just because you feel it’s not your thing. There’s always, you know, a varied type of opportunity that may be perfect for you and you may be well suited for it.
>> Thank you both for taking the time to share your stories and wisdom with us today. To our listeners, please go to ice.gov/careers to find detailed information about ICE career tracks, a list of upcoming recruiting events, sign up for email career update notifications, specific job descriptions, and a list of frequently asked questions. A multimedia web page on women in law enforcement can be found at ice.gov/features/women-ice and contains video and text stories about current and retired women of ICE and historic U.S. Customs. Please join us next time on Careers at ICE to learn more about the agency and how to start your career in law enforcement.