How is Immigration and Customs Enforcement Different from Customs and Border Protection? 

With the increase in terror attacks and public attention on immigration policies, many people are asking if there is a difference in the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. While both are divisions within the Department of Homeland Security, they have separate responsibilities.

What Does the Customs and Border Protection Do?

The CBP, or Customs and Border Protection agency, is responsible for monitoring the borders to keep out terrorists and their weapons. Their primary method is restricting the entry of illegal aliens. They patrol more than 6,000 miles of U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, and more than 2,000 miles of territorial waters. The charge is difficult because regular tourism and commerce must be allowed, but criminal elements must be turned back or detained. As criminals have become more sophisticated, the CBP has adopted advanced technology to assist them in their efforts. Agents must still physically patrol the borders, but they also rely upon electronic sensors, video monitors and drones to locate and apprehend illegal aliens.

What is ICE?

The term stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The department was formed after the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. While some of its functions seem to mirror those of the CBP, ICE agents do not just deal with issues near the U.S. borders. They remove illegal aliens and criminals from the country, deal with employers who hire undocumented aliens, inspect cargo coming into or leaving the country, protect federal buildings and deal with gun and human trafficking. ICE is the second-largest investigative agency in the U.S. ICE maintains a “transparent” presence so that it can publish the names of detainees on a website. This makes it easier for immigration attorneys and the families of the detainees to find them. Although many see the duties of this agency in a negative light, ICE says that it helps legal immigrants avoid being included with undocumented aliens in policies and in reduced access to assistance programs, according American Immigration Center.

Do the Agencies Work Together?

It makes sense that, because the agencies work with the same populations, they would cooperate. That is the purpose of the ICE-CBP Coordination Council. Still, both have policies that interfere with this type of interfacing and both have technological glitches that minimize the amount of information that can be shared between them. Both agencies are reaching out to local law enforcement agencies to facilitate the process of protecting the citizens and borders of the country. The recent increase in so-called “sanctuary cities” is another difficulty with the agencies working together. Localities designated as sanctuary cities instruct their local law enforcement not to cooperate with either agency. This is due primarily to changes in the United States immigration policies and in the way the country views young people who, though they have been in the country most of their lives and function as citizens, are undocumented. The amount of interface that can be achieved between ICE and the CBP depends upon the political temperature of the nation.

Related Resource: 5 Important Things to Know about US Border Patrol Careers

Although there is a current political outcry against many ICE and CBP policies, few disagree that their function is a necessary one. The agencies may eventually be merged to eliminate some overlap and to allow greater communication and cooperation between them. Despite the differences in ICE and CBP, it is clear that careers in the agencies are probably sound choices due to their importance to the country.