U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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The agency's logo.
Making the melting pot
Immigrants welcome, racists not

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known by its initials ICE, is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with enforcing the United States' immigration laws. ICE does not patrol the US borders; that task is handled by its sister agency, the United States Customs and Border Protection.[1] Instead, ICE is responsible for arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants already within the United States.[2] Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the agency has become unreasonably aggressive in its task of removing unwanted individuals to the point that it has become responsible for an ongoing human rights fiasco.[3] It wasn't all Trump's fault, however; ICE's abuses against undocumented immigrants happened under President Obama's watch as well.[4]

ICE was established in 2003 by the Homeland Security Act,Wikipedia which created the Department of Homeland Security and integrated the former Immigration and Naturalization Service into what is now ICE.[5]


Family separation policy and child detention centers[edit]

As part of the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, the family separation policy of migrant children from their parents was officially adopted from April 2018 to June 2018,[6][7] although it was found that the practice had begun a year prior to the policy's official announcement.[8]

As of December 2018, roughly 15,000 children are currently detained within U.S. custody.[9]

Rape and sexual assault[edit]

ICE has a long history of rape and sexual assault within the agency. In April 2018, The Intercept reported they had obtained 1,224 complaints of sexual assault filed between 2010 and September 2017, but DHS officials indicated they had received roughly 33,000 complaints between 2010 and 2016 that had not been shared with The Intercept.[10] In February 2019, government documents revealed that over 5,800 migrant children faced alleged sexual abuse while in ICE custody.[11][12]

Inhumane conditions[edit]

ICE detention center in Texas.

Another report from The Intercept found that at the ICE processing center in Adelanto, California, the staff had been ignoring medical emergencies, the food was infested with maggots, and detainees working in the kitchens were being paid only $1 a day.[13] A report from the DHS Office of Inspector General reported guards mocking survivors of attempted suicide as "suicide failures", inadequate sanitation and food services within the facility, medical staff neglecting detainees, and staff members refusing to allow religious practices, telephone access and visitation.[14] Another DHS report found that the facility in Newark, New Jersey had kitchens serving raw, spoiled and expired meat and storing moldy bread, leaking roofs in every housing unit, flat and dilapidated bed mattresses held together with tied sheets, and showers with mold, mildew and peeling paint.[15] Additionally, in response to hunger strikes by eleven detainees at the processing center in El Paso, Texas, ICE officers began force-feeding six of them with nasal tubes, resulting in nosebleeds and vomiting.[16] Immigrant children at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia have said that they were beaten, left in their cells naked, and strapped to chairs by the guards.[17]

ICE regularly inflicts solitary confinement on detainees at the slightest provocation, confining people to tiny cells for 23 hours a day and letting them pace around inside what amounts to a cage for one hour.[18] A policy adviser at the DHS revealed ICE had been engaging in infliction punishment on gay detainees, transgender detainees, disabled detainees,[note 1] detainees with mental illnesses, and detainees reporting abuses committed by ICE staff, with only half the cases being for rule violations.[19] The UN has declared that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days or more should be banned, as it is a form of torture.[20] Despite this, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists analyzed more than 8,400 records of ICE using solitary confinement on detainees, finding that more than half of the cases were in excess of 15 days, 573 were in excess of 90 days, 32 stints lasted more than a year (!), and a whopping one-third of detainees placed in solitary were mentally ill (373 of whom had to be placed on suicide watch).[21]

Recently, there are disturbing reports that ICE has allowed forced hysterectomies to be given to female detainees,[22] promoting massive public outcry, and drawing comparisons to China's own ongoing mass sterilization campaigns.[note 2]

Deaths in detention[edit]

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents revealing 107 deaths occurring in ICE custody from October 2003 to 2007.[23] These deaths included a man who was left in an isolation for 13 hours following a head fracture, a man who committed suicide after being denied painkillers following a leg surgery after a motorcycle accident, a woman who did not receive treatment for a uterine fibroid tumor, a man who did not receive treatment for a kidney ailment, and a woman who was denied treatment for pancreatic cancer for several weeks.[23] Since 2007, that number has gone up to 188, with 22 deaths occurring in the last two years.[24] Of the 24 individuals to die during Trump's term in office, it has been concluded that at least six of those deaths were caused by the agency's failure to provide adequate medical care.[25] Trump has exacerbated the problem of deaths occurring in ICE custody. 2017, his first year in office, saw 12 detainees die in ICE custody, the greatest number since 2009, Obama's first year in office.[26] Clara Long, a senior researcher for the Human Rights Watch has said that, "ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains. The Trump administration’s efforts to drastically expand the already-bloated immigration detention system will only put more people at risk."[26]

Religious freedom violations[edit]

Rosaries confiscated from ICE detainees.
See the main article on this topic: Freedom of religion

While the Trump administration touts its commitment to "religious freedom,"[27] both ICE and the Border Patrol frequently and intentionally violate the religious rights of their detainees. Egregious examples of these abuses include feeding nothing but pork sandwiches to a devout Muslim once every eight hours,[28] punishing Sikhs for wearing head coverings and forcing them to pray near toilets,[29] and repeatedly denying prayer services and religious texts for Muslims on the justification that "This is Glades County!"[30] This conduct is not limited to Muslims and Sikhs; Christians as well are consistently denied access to religious materials, services, and clergy.[31] There are also reports of guards mocking Christian detainees for praying.

These violations of fundamental rights are unnecessary for any security purpose and appear to be intended as a means of harassment and a means of pressuring detainees to give up on their case and accept immediate deportation rather than to wait out the results of their case.[32] The US government has previously acknowledged how important religion can be for prisoner morale, mental health, and rehabilitation; what ICE is doing is illegal under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which guarantees religious rights for all prisoners in the United States, whether documented or otherwise.[33]

Incompetence and corruption[edit]

In February 2019, the DHS Office of Inspector General reported that ICE had not been holding private contractors accountable for issues at their detention centers, issuing only two fines in 14,003 cases between October 2015 and June 2018 that included sexual assault, use of tear gas and so on.[34][35]

ICE has also proven to be dangerously vindictive. When citizens in several North Carolina counties elected sheriffs who agreed to the the termination of 287(g) cooperation agreements with ICE that notify federal agents of the immigration status of detained individuals, ICE retaliated with a five-day crackdown in those counties' 200 people, 60 of whom ICE had previously held no interest in.[36] This was done to cause maximum chaos in order to punish the citizens and sheriffs of those counties for refusing to comply with ICE's draconian anti-immigrant measures. ICE also punishes detainees who have the temerity to cooperate in legal cases against them. Such was the case of several Iraqi detainees, who were ACLU clients, in Arizona who were told they were about to be released, only for their guards to reveal mid-charade that they were actually only being sent to a different ICE facility.[37] This was an intentional and cruel form of psychological punishment.

ICE's American police state[edit]

ICE raid in Ohio

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of ICE's enforcement procedures for everyday US citizens is their policy of launching mass raids against anyone who looks too brown to be a real American. This has been a fact of ICE since the mid-Bush administration. In 2006 ICE started using the excuse of investigating "document fraud" to raid workplaces across the country with ridiculously heavily armed agents.[38] President George W. Bush publicly announced his desire to purge America of all illegal immigrants, directly causing 2008 to be a record year for workplace raids, with 6,287 arrests.[39] Obama issued a series of executive orders to focus ICE on dangerous criminals, but Trump's "zero tolerance" policy reversed that to target potentially any illegal immigrant.[40] ICE raids are traumatic events for the communities they target, as ICE rushes in with military equipment and helicopters to whisk away hundreds of people, leaving jobs empty, families torn apart, and local organizations straining to return things to normality.[41] Although it seems logical that ICE should first go after dangerous criminals, the agency instead targets so-called "low hanging fruit": people without criminal records who visit ICE for routine check-ins in the hope of earning citizenship[42] or testify against criminals in court.[43] The effect of ICE raids is widespread fear among immigrant communities and a complete withdrawal from civil and social life.[44]

ICE also runs roughshod over the law. In the wake of Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, ICE and CBP agents have taken the law into their own hands by ignoring and violating court orders, denying access to legal counsel, and forcing people to sign documents they have not read.[45] ICE also arrests DACA beneficiaries who are here legally and conducts unwarranted raids in defiance of the Fourth Amendment.[46] Increasing aggressiveness in raiding has resulted in ICE casting a pall over immigrant and minority communities with the threat of "collateral arrests", or arrests of individuals not actually targeted by the raid but who happen to have the wrong skin color.[47] Even more absurdly, ICE has taken to arresting people while they are in the process of applying for citizenship, a counterproductive policy that discourages people from complying with the law.[48][49] Even legal immigrants are now afraid to visit government buildings, as they are afraid that the ICE agents loitering outside are there for them, too.[50] ICE uses intimidation tactics against US citizens associated with their targets in the hopes of circumventing constitutional rights and getting away with misrepresenting the law.[51] Widespread racial profiling and aggressive raiding has led to ICE mistakenly arresting almost 1,500 legal United States citizens as of 2018, with ICE agents ignoring and mocking detainees' rightful claims of citizenship.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. Including those needing wheelchairs and canes, and one man who had a prosthetic leg.
  2. Of course, tankies naturally use it to justify China's campaign, while Trump apologists use the same CCP playbook to deny any wrongdoing. Horseshoe theory at its finest.


  1. See the Wikipedia article on United States Customs and Border Protection.
  2. What Is ICE and Why Do Critics Want to Abolish It? by Ron Nixon and Linda Qiu, New York Times. July 3, 2018.
  3. ICE and Border Patrol abuses ACLU
  4. The Border Patrol Was Monstrous Under Obama. Imagine How Bad It Is Under Trump. by Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.
  5. History of ICE ICE
  6. Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border The New York Times. April 20, 2018.
  7. How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families The New York Times. June 16, 2018.
  8. Democrats grill Trump administration officials over family separation policy on the border USA Today. Feb, 7, 2019.
  9. How many migrant children are detained in US custody? The Guardian. December 22, 2018.
  10. 1,224 Records of Sexual Assault in ICE Detention The Intercept. April 11 2019.
  11. 'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused' BBC. 26 February 2019.
  12. https://www.thecut.com/2019/02/5-800-children-alleged-sexual-abuse-while-detained-by-u-s.html The Cut. Feb. 26, 2019.
  13. At largest ICE detention center in the country, guards called attempted suicides "failures" The Intercept. October 11, 2018.
  14. Management Alert – Issues Requiring Action at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security.
  15. Issues Requiring Action at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, New Jersey Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security
  16. APNewsBreak: ICE force-feeding detainees on hunger strike Associated Press. January 31, 2019.
  17. Immigrant children say they were beaten, kept naked in cells and tied to chairs at center New York Daily News. Jun 21, 2018.
  18. Thousands of Immigrants Suffer in Solitary Confinement in ICE Detention The Intercept
  19. Thousands of immigrants suffer in solitary confinement in U.S. detention centers NBC News. May 20, 2019.
  20. Solitary confinement should be banned in most cases, UN expert says United Nations News.
  21. How US immigration authorities use solitary confinement International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. May 20, 2019
  22. ICE is accused of sterilizing detainees. That echoes the U.S.’s long history of forced sterilization. Steven Moore. The Washington Post. September 25, 2020
  23. 23.0 23.1 Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail The New York Times. Jan. 9, 2010.
  24. 22 immigrants died in ICE detention centers during the past 2 years NBC News. Jan. 6, 2019.
  25. Medical Neglect at a Denver Immigration Jail Project on Government Oversight.
  26. 26.0 26.1 US: Poor Medical Care, Deaths, in Immigrant Detention Human Rights Watch.
  27. President Donald J. Trump Stands Up For Religious Freedom In The United States Whitehouse.gov
  28. Border Patrol Fed Pork To Muslim Detainee For 6 Days Huffington Post. 02/27/2019
  29. New Complaint Says Religious Freedoms Denied For Sheridan ICE Detainees Nov. 1, 2018
  30. United States District Court Fort Myers Division.
  31. Clergy visits give hope to ICE detainees, but access is inconsistent Christian Century. December 6, 2018.
  32. Muslim Detainees Say ICE Interferes With Their Religious Practices Courthouse News. February 27, 2019.
  33. Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc.
  34. ICE Does Not Fully Use Contracting Tools to Hold Detention Facility Contractors Accountable for Failing to Meet Performance Standards Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security.
  35. ICE Failed to Hold Detention Center Contractors Accountable, Report Finds NPR. February 1, 2019.
  36. North Carolinians Voted to End Cooperation With Trump’s Deportation Force. ICE Retaliated. ACLU. 2.27.19
  37. ICE Is Abusing the ACLU’s Clients Because They are Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine. ACLU. 7.31.17
  38. ICE: The Making of an American Gestapo Truthout
  39. Immigration raid spotlights rift of have-nots NY Daily News 2009
  40. What's New In Those DHS Memos On Immigration Enforcement? NPR
  41. How Immigration Raids Inflict Trauma on Communities CityLab. Elizabeth Oglesby, a professor of Latin American Studies and Geography at the University of Arizona
  42. Once Routine, Immigration Check-Ins Are Now High Stakes New York Times
  43. SoCal man faces deportation after testifying against daughter’s molester, family says Fox5 San Diego
  44. The Stark Geography of U.S. Immigration Raids CityLab
  45. "Just Following Orders": Horror stories about the lawlessness of Customs and Border Protection agents in the aftermath of Trump’s immigration ban. Slate
  46. An alarming arrest raises concerns about the lawlessness of immigration enforcement in the age of Trump. Slate
  47. Fear of 'collateral' arrests hangs over ICE sweeps LA Times
  48. Ice faces legal challenges to arresting immigrants at courthouses and immigration proceedings Pacific Standard Magazine
  49. Immigrants Avoiding State Courts, Legal Services Due to ICE Presence, Report Says New York Law Journal.
  50. Legal Immigrants Fear Getting Arrested in Court by ICE Daily Beast
  51. ICE Arrest Foiled By Activist Who Knows The Law: ‘You Have No Jurisdiction Over Me’ Huffington Post
  52. 1,488 U.S. Citizens Mistakenly Arrested, Detained by ICE Since 2012 The Daily Beast. 2018.