The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will realign its duties to promote criminal investigations over immigrant deportation, reports the Washington Post. By streamlining and renaming several offices, officials hope to highlight the agency’s counterterrorism, money laundering, and other complex criminal investigations and “re-brand” ICE, turning the public — and political — spotlight away from its immigration work.
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said immigration enforcement remains a top priority but that the intention of the image makeover is to show the agency’s “true face.” “Public perception is dominated by civil immigration enforcement responsibilities, even though half of the agency is devoted to something else,” Morton said. “We’re not going to get away from immigration. It’s very important from a national security perspective.” Immigration advocates are skeptical about an agency trying to rehabilitate its image without first making substantive changes. They say ICE is stricter than it was under the previous administration with enforcement, and problems persist with immigration detention. Most of the $5.5 billion in discretionary funds for ICE’s 2011 budget request pays for efforts to lock up and deport immigrants. “ICE has more than a branding problem. You can’t rebrand yourself out of a misallocation of resources,” said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. Worksite raids and neighborhood sweeps that targeted illegal immigrants have helped shape ICE’s image. The agency is hounded, too, by reports of poor treatment of noncitizens in ICE custody and allegations that the agency’s rigid policies break up immigrant families.