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Immigration Enforcement in the US

Immigration enforcement issues have continued to grow in severity and complexity over the past several years. With the advent of new technologies, criminals obtain more possibilities to arrange and expand their illegal activity. The key task of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the country and its citizens from criminal aliens whose actions pose a serious threat.

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Three Chief Issues with Regards to Immigration Enforcement in the US

U.S. Department of Homeland Security performs a number of significant functions such as securing the borders, providing anti-terrorism protection, and preventing disasters. Out of the issues with which the department deals, the following three are of utmost importance: cyber crimes, drug trafficking, and child exploitation. Cyber crimes present a great threat to the country’s security because internet technologies are constantly developing, and terrorists and other criminal elements use them to steal secret information (Davis, 2012).

Further, they use the data with illegal aims varying from minor crimes such as using someone’s identity to huge offenses such as undermining the system of the country’s protection (Carmon & Stalinsky, 2015). Drug trafficking is another serious issue with which the Department of Homeland Security deals (Nixon & Santosa, 2017). In order to prevent drug trafficking, the department has to secure borders and also develop the most effective methods of enforcing federal drug regulations and statutes. An additional danger posed by drug dealers is the use of large quantities of weapons (Nixon & Santosa, 2017). The third issue, child exploitation, is one of the fastest growing illegal activities (Rafferty, 2013).

Criminals kidnap children and use them as objects that can be bought and sold with the purpose of sexual exploitation or for labor (Rafferty, 2013). Immigration Enforcement agencies develop operations to prevent child exploitation and punish those who engage in such criminal activity.

State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies’ Authority to Enforce Immigration Policies

The authority to establish rules regarding what aliens may enter the US and which of them should be removed belongs entirely to the federal government (Garcia & Manuel, 2012). Along with owning the power to regulate this issue, the federal government is also the only institution able to prohibit the activities that undermine the system of allowing or refusing aliens to enter the country. Immigration regulations are governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act and are supported by the enforcement regime consisting of civil and criminal arrangements (Garcia & Manuel, 2012). Deportation is considered as a civil procedure whereas smuggling is criminal by nature.

While the federal government has the power to prescribe all immigration rules, Congress has authorized state and local law enforcement agencies to help in enforcing immigration policies (Garcia & Manuel, 2012). More than that, some federal courts consider states as able to possess the power of providing assistance in the enforcement of immigration law even when there is no clear endorsement by federal statute (Garcia & Manuel, 2012).

However, even though state and local law enforcement agencies are entitled to some power, they should always be coherent with federal authority (Garcia & Manuel, 2012). Therefore, these agencies do not have much authority to enforce immigration policies, almost all of their decisions being governed by the federal government.

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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE is the component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responsible for immigration enforcement (“Who we are,” 2017). ICE’s duties incorporate enforcing federal acts regulating customs trade, border control, and immigration. The key function of ICE is promoting public safety and homeland security (“Who we are,” 2017). The department was created in 2003 as a union of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the interior and investigative enforcement components of the former U. S. Customs Service.

ICE’s budget amounts to $6 billion annually and is principally shared among three operational panels: Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) (“Who we are,” 2017). The Management and Administration directorate promotes the ICE mission by supporting the three operational departments.

The main function of ERO is identifying and capturing the removable aliens, keeping them under arrest if necessary, and transporting such individuals from the US. The HIS department is accountable for inspecting a large variety of domestic and international schemes caused by the illegal migration of goods and people into, within, and out of the country (“Who we are,” 2017). OPLA is the only legal agent in eviction, removal, and deportation operations against terrorists, criminal aliens, and human rights offenders in immigration courts. The professional managers and assistants working for the Management and Administration department deal with equipment needs, human resource management, budget, and other essential components of ICE’s work.

The strategic plan of ICE involves three key objectives:

  • protecting the country’s borders and resisting terrorism;
  • securing the borders via effective immigration enforcement;
  • governing a productive and efficient agency (“Who we are,” 2017).

Suggested Changes to Improve the Immigration Policy Enforcement

There are many resources available for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that can promote the enforcement of immigration (Ackley, 2013). Unfortunately, the federal government has not been able to reach the highest level of national security even though it has many departments, each of them with its own responsibilities and possibilities. There are still many challenges posed at the Department of Homeland Security. Ackley (2013) remarks that there are two changes that should be implemented in order to enhance the immigration policy enforcement. The first suggested solution is the adoption of NEXUS at the southern border. The second idea is the endorsement of US-VISIT at both borders.

NEXUS is the program currently employed at the northern border that allows travelers who have successfully passed the background investigation to avoid additional inspections (Homeland Security, 2012). With the help of NEXUS, the Department of Homeland Security ascribes a “low-risk” status to the individuals whose data are pre-approved (Homeland Security, 2012). As a result, it becomes possible to focus on the examination of those travelers whose risk status has not been identified yet.

US-VISIT is a project focused on biometric identification of travelers (Homeland Security, n.d.). With the help of this technology, it becomes possible to prevent criminal aliens from entering the US. Another asset of this method is that countries are able to cooperate and help one another to stop illegal activity and prevent document fraud (Homeland Security, n.d.). Since US-VISIT and NEXUS have proved to be productive ways of providing safety on the northern border, it is recommended that these two programs should also be implemented at the southern border to improve the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration policy in an adequate manner.

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The Department of Homeland Security consists of many agencies at different levels. However, they all have the same mission: to protect the US and its people from criminal aliens and their illegal activity. Child exploitation, drug trafficking, and cyber crimes are some of the chief issues with which immigration enforcement agencies deal. At every level, everything is made possible to protect the peaceful citizens and provide them with a sufficient level of security.


Ackley, E. P. (2013). The current fight within: The effects terrorism has on people, policy, emergency first respondents, and military service members. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Carmon, Y., & Stalinsky, S. (2015). Terrorist use of U.S. social media is a national security threat. Forbes.

Davis, J. T. (2012). Examining perceptions of local law enforcement in the fight against crimes with a cyber component. Policing: An International Journal, 35(2), 272-284.

Garcia, M. J., & Manuel, K. M. (2012). Authority of state and local police to enforce federal immigration role. Web.

Homeland Security. (n.d.). Enhancing security through biometric identification. Web.

Homeland Security. (2012). The United States and Canada announce plans to increase NEXUS benefits. Web.

Nixon, R., & Santosa, F. (2017). U.S. appetite for Mexico’s drugs fuels illegal immigration. The New York Times.

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Rafferty, Y. (2013). Child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation: A review of promising prevention policies and programs. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83(4), 559-575.

Who we are. (2017). Web.

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