Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its creation also ushered in a new subsidiary agency in charge of the enforcement of the United States’ immigration laws, named Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Formed in 2003, ICE took on roles previously delegated to the Institutional Removal Program and the Alien Criminal Apprehension Program, both of them within the Immigration and Naturalization Service under the Department of Justice. ICE contains two primary divisions: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
ERO is mainly responsible for arresting, detaining, and removing people who are in the United States illegally. HSI is tasked with overseeing criminal investigations covering immigration crime; human rights violations; human smuggling; smuggling of narcotics, weapons and other contraband; financial crimes; cybercrime; and export enforcement issues.
The number of people ICE arrested, detained, or removed has increased over the past few years. In ICE’s 2019 Fiscal Year, ERO arrested 143,000 immigrants and removed more than 267,000 from the United States. ERO also reached an average daily detained population of 50,165 immigrants in FY 2019, an increase of nearly 20% compared to 2018.