ICE Misses to Highlight The Importance of Immigration Laws

Once again a visit to the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) website is providing me with the predication for a commentary.

Usually the press releases issued by ICE provide insight into the operations of that agency- today the news release provides an invaluable insight into the mindset of the agency that is charged with enforcing a number of laws in the United States including, the laws contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This body of law (INA) contains all of the statutes that deal with the issue of alien entering our country, acquiring lawful status including citizenship and even with the removal or exclusion of aliens.

It is all but impossible to peek into the mind of a person or to truly understand the mindset of those who are in charge of organizations. I would suggest that the news release that was issued by ICE today provides a real bit of insight. Please remember that the news release was issued by management at ICE and was posted on that agency’s official website. The website represents all of the dedicated men and women who work at the agency that is supposed to enforce some of the most important laws in the federal government’s prosecutorial arsenal.

The press release I have attached below makes it clear that to the leadership at ICE, Customs was the predecessor. There is not a single word about the former INS. The emphasis on Customs and the desire to ignore Immigration is, I am convinced, at the heart of everything that is wrong with the agency that bears lead responsibility for enforcing the immigration laws for our nation. In reading the news release, it would appear that Legacy Customs simply morphed into ICE!

Don’t just take my word for this perspective- please consider this paragraph I have copied, word for word from the news release:

Then 9/11 happened. That’s when the U.S. Customs Service morphed into two new agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – ICE and its sister agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Investigations related to customs and border enforcement became part of ICE, and customs and border inspections became part of CBP.

Is there a single word concerning the enforcement of the immigration laws?

Clearly the immigration laws are the laws that ICE and CBP would rather not have to be bothered with!

The immigration laws have been vilified by the administration and by such “leaders” as Pelosi who, in 2003 compared the arrest of illegal aliens at Wal-Mart with an act of terror!

The president insists that aliens who circumvent the inspections process that is supposed to prevent the entry of aliens into our country whose presence is harmful and potentially dangerous should be rewarded with United States citizenship. (I wonder if the president and such “leaders” as Pelosi, Schumer, McCain and the others who agree with this lunacy would have no problem providing a burglar who might break into their homes in the dead of night with a key to the front door to their homes?)

I know that I have made this point frequently in the past but I do not think you can make the point often enough that the immigration laws that are seen as trivial to too many of our nation’s leaders and, indeed, “leaders” on the local level are supposed to protect us from those aliens who would do serious harm to our well being and represent a threat to national security.

Here is a link to Title 8 of the United States Code, Section 212- these are the grounds under which an alien would be ineligible to be lawfully admitted into the United States:

INA: Act 212 – General Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas and Ineligible for Admission; Waivers of Inadmissibillity

There are some folks who may not immediately discern the difference between customs laws and immigration laws so I will briefly describe for you the most salient differences. First of all you should consider the fact that the former U.S. Customs Service, now referred to as “Legacy Customs” was found under the umbrella of the United States Treasury Department. This made perfect sense. Customs laws are primarily concerned with the movement of objects and currency across international borders. Customs laws deal with the collections of tariffs and duties- in essence a form of taxation. The work of Legacy Customs more closely resembled the work of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and the Department of Commerce.

Immigration laws, on the other hand, are focused on the movement of people across international borders and the continued presence of aliens in our country once they cross our borders, whether legally or illegally. the enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws had been the responsibility of the Labor Department prior to the Second World War when the government recognized the extreme national security implications of aliens entering into our country. The Labor Department’s concern about aliens workers had to do with protecting American jobs and living standards. (Would that our nation’s leaders still worried about that!)

The work of the former INS was most similar to what is done at the FBI and the Labor Department.

Clearly there are few similarities between what the officials of Legacy INS and Legacy Customs did. Today it is clear that Customs is the lead component of both ICE and CBP. I have been told that the great majority of leaders at ICE- at the headquarters level as well as at field offices across our nation, came from Legacy Customs. These leaders have little or no experience in enforcing the immigration laws and consequently lack the insight and experience to “lead the charge” where the enforcement of the immigration laws are concerned. This has been the consistent complaint I continue to hear from folks who work for CBP and ICE and with whom I am still in regular communication. I am convinced that the way that DHS was configured was not an accident. I believe that the intention behind the creation of DHS was to de-emphasize the enforcement of the immigration laws.

On May 5, 2005 I was called to testify before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims at a hearing that was convened to consider the following topic:


The hearing was called to assess how well DHS was operating. The creation of DHS also called for splitting the enforcement agencies down the middle. Prior to the creation of DHS all INS employees worked for the same agency. This included the Border Patrol, the INS Special Agents, the INS Deportation Officers, the Immigration Inspectors and other employees.

For U.S. Customs, the Customs Inspectors and the Customs Special Agents were all part of the former U.S. Customs Service.

Under DHS ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) contained a number of law enforcement agencies but the United States Border Patrol and the Inspectors became part of a separate agency known as CBP (Customs and Border Protection).

I was not alone in my great concerns about this unwieldy and, I believed, unworkable agency known as the DHS.

Here is a link to the transcript of that hearing, in its entirety:

Transcripts for Congressional hearings are not exciting to read and many are down-right boring- however, I think you will find the information contained in this hearing to be well worth your time and effort to read. You will probably be astounded to hear from Richard Stana, the Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office, when he says a the hearing that there was still no mission statement for ICE three and half years after the attacks of September 11, 2001!

It is important to always keep a “game face” even when you feel strong emotions while you are testifying before Congress, testifying at a trial or engaging in a public debate. When I heard what Richard Stana had to say, I recall being in a state of rage. I was, you might say, experiencing a “quiet riot!” On the day of the hearing, John Hostettler chaired the Subcommittee and was in charge of the hearing in that role. I was extremely gratified that his counsel motioned for me to not stop speaking but to keep going. This was extremely unusual and I think that if you take the time to read the transcript you find what I had to say to be of interest. For the sake of convenience, I have provided you with my prepared testimony below:


Chairman Hostettler, Ranking member Jackson Lee, distinguished members of Congress, members of the panel, ladies and gentlemen. I welcome this opportunity to provide testimony today on the critical issue of the dual missions of the immigration enforcement agencies. While my prepared testimony will focus on ICE, It is my understanding that the inspections program of CBP is similarly hobbled in its ability to enforce the immigration laws.

For decades our nation had the reputation of being the ”can do” nation. If we could dream it, we could accomplish it. Our nation’s entry into both World Wars ended with victory. When President John F. Kennedy challenged our scientists and engineers to land men on the moon and return them safely to the earth within less than a decade, we again rose to the challenge. Today, our nation is challenged by many problems. The one issue that impacts so many of these other issues, the enforcement and administration of the immigration laws, eludes our purported efforts at solving it. For decades, the immigration crisis, and it is, indeed, a crisis; has grown more significant and its repercussions have increased exponentially. We are waging a war on terror and a war on drugs. The immigration component of this battle, in which the lives of not only our citizens, but the survival of our nation itself is on the line, appears to be insoluble. I am here today to tell you that we can control our nation’s borders and we can effectively administer and enforce the immigration laws from within the interior of the United States.

In order to gain control of our borders and our immigration program, we need to see it as a system. We also need to understand that the interior enforcement program is critical to gaining control of our nation’s borders. Nearly half of the illegal aliens did not enter the country by running the border, but rather by being admitted through a port of entry and then subsequently violating the terms of their admission. They stay longer than the period of time for which they were admitted, they seek unauthorized employment or they commit felonies. Special agents are desperately needed to not only seek to arrest illegal aliens, but to conduct field investigations to uncover immigration fraud to restore integrity to the benefits program which has been historically plagued with high fraud rates. This is especially troubling as we wage a war on terror. The 911 Staff Report on Terrorist Travel made it clear that this dysfunctional bureaucracy aided the terrorists who wrought so much destruction upon our nation. The fact is that many of the managers of ICE appear more focused on traditional Customs-oriented investigations than they are on enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act to safeguard our nation from terrorists and criminals who have become adept at hiding in plain sight by making use of gaping loop-holes and deficiencies in the immigration bureaucracy that go undetected by the law enforcement agency that is supposed to enforce these laws.

Since the merger of Legacy INS and Legacy Customs into ICE, the new ICE special agents are no longer being given Spanish language training even though it has been estimated that some 80% of the illegal alien population is, in fact, Spanish speaking. It is impossible to investigate individuals you are unable to communicate with. Yet, this critical language-training program has been eliminated from the curriculum of the new ICE agents. I have to believe that this represents more than a simple oversight on the part of the leaders at the academy. It underscores an absolute lack of desire to enforce the critical immigration laws. If anything, our agents should be getting additional language training as we seek to uncover aliens operating within our nation’s borders who are a threat to our well being. Strategic languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu should be added to the curriculum along with Chinese, Korean and other such critical languages. Yet at present, the curriculum not only fails to mandate any foreign language training, it doesn’t even offer any foreign language training.

Identity documents are the lynchpins that hold the immigration program together, yet incredibly, while other law enforcement agencies provide in-service document training to their personnel to help them recognize altered or counterfeit identity documents, ICE does not.

Immigration law training is similarly not as effective as it needs to be.

Besides the extreme lack of resources that has been focused on at previous hearings, we need to make certain that the people in charge of the enforcement of the immigration laws have a true understanding of the laws and have a clear sense of mission that many key managers appear to lack. At present, nearly every field office of ICE is headed by a Special Agent-in-Charge who came from the United States Customs Service and not from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. The immigration laws are highly complex and require that the executives who are charged with leading the enforcement effort have a thorough understanding of the laws that they are responsible for enforcing. They should have real-world experience in investigating and aiding in the prosecution of criminal organizations that produce fraudulent documents, promote fraud schemes to circumvent the immigration laws, engage in large-scale human trafficking or the smuggling of criminal or terrorist aliens into the United States. They should also have real-world experience and understanding of the ways in which proper enforcement of the immigration laws can synergistically act as a force multiplier when ICE agents team up with law enforcement officers from other federal agencies as well as local and state police departments. The effective enforcement of immigration laws can help to cultivate informants to facilitate not only investigations into immigration law violations, but violations of laws in many other areas of concern including narcotics investigations, gang investigations and terrorism investigations.

The current lack of leadership that is experienced in immigration law enforcement, the lack of effective training and the previously examined, lack of resources have been disastrous for the enforcement of the immigration laws, thereby imperiling our nation and our people.

It is vital that there be real accountability and real leadership where immigration is concerned. While Customs and Immigration were both border enforcement agencies, the border is where their similarities begin and end. I would therefore strongly recommend that the law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing the immigration laws have a dedicated chain of command with a budget and training program that focuses on immigration. Certainly they can and should work cooperatively with the former Customs enforcement agents, but they need a separate identity in order to make certain that the current ”Customization of immigration law enforcement” stops immediately for the security of our nation. The enforcement of the immigration statutes needs to be the priority and not an after-thought.

I look forward to your questions.

Today our nation is confronting many risks from many directions. Our nation is engaged in a “War on Terror” and is also supposedly waging a “War on Drugs” and a “War on Crime.” The “War on Crime” is being fought primarily against transnational criminals including members of the Mexican drug cartels with the Secretary of DHS conceding that more than 230 United States cities from coast to coast and border to border are now infested by these extremely violent criminals who are utilizing tactics of intimidation that could have been lifted directly out of the terrorists handbook!

Just last week, on April 11th, the New York Daily News ran a startling news article that I have provided a link for below:

Exclusive Feds finding it harder and harder to combat escalating presence of Mexican drug cartels in New York For those who might have been lulled into a false sense of security believing that unless you live in a state that shares its border with Mexico you have nothing to fear, this headline should have served as a wake up call as to how much all Americans are at risk!

Furthermore, the Mexican drug cartels are not the only transnational criminal organizations that threaten our nation. There are also MS-13, Russian organized crime, the Colombian cartels, the Jamaican drug posses and a laundry list of other such criminal gangs and organizations that threaten the lives of the people who live in our country. Most often the immigrant communities unwittingly play host to these thugs and hence the immigrants from all over the world are at greatest risk.

Yet the news release issued by ICE did not even have a single word to say about Immigration! Certainly the employees of ICE who came from Legacy Customs can and should feel proud of the service they have rendered our nation, but to write a press release that creates the illusion that ICE is simply about customs is insulting to the many dedicated ICE and CBP employees who came from Legacy INS and other agencies.

A number of years ago, I met with members of Congress in a private meeting. I was asked about the issue of morale among those special agents who enforce our nation’s immigration laws. I simply stated, “Morale is not a problem.” The member of Congress who had asked me about morale seem surprised, He said, “Mr. Cutler, we have heard that morale was a problem.”

My response was fraught with sarcasm but I think it made the point with crystal clearity, “Congressman, how could something that does not exist possibly be a problem?” * The effective enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws are, arguably, among the most important of all missions that are supposed to be carried out by our federal government.

Nothing less than the security of our nation and safety of our citizens hang in the balance!

A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!

I f our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.

My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.

The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.

If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same. We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”

The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!

The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians. I implore you to resolve this year to get involved!

I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world. However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!

If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation!

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

News Releases April 18, 2011 Washington, DC Top Story: New organization preserves U.S. Customs Service history

Michael Cutler
Michael Cutler, a former Senior INS Investigator, an expert witness in more than a dozen Congressional Hearings is a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an advisor to the '911 Families for a Secure America.' He writes about the nexus between immigration and national security.