What is Ice?
Ice was created in 2003 when the Bush administration reorganized a number of federal agencies in response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, and placed them under the brand new Department of Homeland Security. Ice, which now employs over 20,000 people, is one of three agencies that absorbed and assumed the functions of the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service and the United States Customs Service.
Ice is not the agency conducting family separations at the US border. Ice is not responsible for patrolling or securing US borders; that task falls to the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP). It is CBP agents who have been charged with enforcing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, detaining migrants and asylum seekers at the border and initiating the separation of undocumented families.
Instead, Ice is primarily tasked with what it calls Enforcement and Removal Operations: essentially the location, detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants who have already successfully crossed the border and are living in the US. Under President Barack Obama, the unit prioritized removing those undocumented immigrants who had committed serious crimes, but the Trump administration has broadened its mandate to target anyone in the US illegally