WASHINGTON – At least 19 immigration and customs officials are trying to dissolve the agency. They are concerned that the Trump government's crackdown on illegal immigrants has reduced their ability to prosecute national security threats, child pornography and cross-border crime
In a letter to Kirstaen Nielsen, Minister of Homeland Security, the Special Representatives had proposed creating a separate investigation unit and another agency to regulate immigration detention and deportation. The request was sent as a growing number of Democrats and lawyers for immigration rights called for the elimination of ICE.
At least two Democrats in the House of Representatives – MP Mark Pocan from Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington – urge to eliminate ICE, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who this week demolished the Democratic establishment with their initial victory over US Representative Joe Crowley of New York made the abolition of the ICE one of the main goals of their campaign.
A spokesperson for the agency did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. But a high-ranking ICE official said there are "operational challenges that are addressed in this letter and require discussion."
Homeland Security Investigations is one of several departments within ICE – the most prominent of which is Enforcement and Removal Operations, arrests and deported undocumented immigrants
The agents' letter is in long-lasting tensions between the investigative and deportation departments within ICE rooted.
The child of a forced marriage between two defunct federal agencies – the United States Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Service – ICE has long struggled to balance its dual role of cross-border criminal investigation and deportation.
Some agents in the investigative unit have said that the Trump administration prioritized ICE's deportation mission. Thomas D. Homan, deputy director of ICE and former head of the deportation unit, was a vociferous supporter of the government's immigration policy.
The more than 6,000 Special Homeland Security Investigators focus on money laundering and drug trafficking, human smuggling, child exploitation and cybercrime. The agents have been involved in some of the highest-rated criminal investigations in recent years, including the deactivation of the Silk Road website, an online market selling illegal drugs and fake ID cards.
The agency also participated in the arrest and arrest of drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as "El Chapo, who led the Sinaloa cartel before being extradited to the United States last year."
HSI is also the leading government agency for investigating counter-proliferation targeting individuals who illegally attempt to smuggle military and other high-tech equipment abroad, which has approximately 50 offices around the world.