Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A once-fragmented collection of understaffed and underfunded federal investigative and intelligence agencies has moved slowly during the past 18 months into its new role as the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inherited not only 20,000 agents, investigators and support personnel from the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Protective Service, and Federal Air Marshal Service, but also a multitude of long-standing problems and a host of new ones.
Created March 1, 2003, ICE has been described as the most complicated law-enforcement merger within the Department Homeland Security, uniting different jobs, missions, philosophies and responsibilities to prevent terrorists and others from exploiting America's financial systems and immigration-enforcement policies.
"A number of agencies sent pieces of themselves to ICE and it has taken a tremendous effort by everyone, particularly those in the field, to try to create a program from scratch," Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who heads ICE, told The Washington Times.
"This transition is unprecedented, but the men and women on the front lines didn't lose a step," Mr. Garcia said. "Not only are they doing new things, they are doing them well. I am confident everything the people in ICE have built and will build will survive."
Mr. Garcia acknowledged that problems continue, including a lack of funding for manpower, resources and equipment, and some employees' concerns about the agency's mission and its complex administrative system, but he is confident that the agency is moving ahead.
"It has taken time to find out ICE's role in preventing a new act of terrorism, where we fit in the overall picture, how we learn and adapt, what tools we need to get the job done, and how to use them more aggressively," he said. …