Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Washington, D.C.
or law enforcement agencies at the state, county, and municipal levels, keeping pace with changes in criminal activity is an ongoing challenge—particularly in times of flat or declining budgets. With each advance in crime fighting, criminals adapt and evolve their methods in response; training personnel in such an environment is quite demanding.
Faced with such challenges, it is critical that law enforcement agencies at every level form partnerships to respond more effectively to today’s threats. In fighting the battle against narcotics trafficking, sexual predators, gang activity, and illegal immigration, cooperative partnerships have proven time and again to be one of the most effective tools available to the law enforcement community.
For this reason, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched the ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) program in 2007. This program provides state and local law enforcement agencies the opportunity to team with ICE, the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to combat specific challenges in their communities.
How ACCESS Works
ACCESS was developed as a toolbox containing all the resources, services, and programs that ICE has available to assist state and local law enforcement agencies. ICE agents and officers meet with agencies requesting ICE ACCESS assistance, assess local needs, and determine which type of partnership would be most beneficial before entering into a formal agreement. Working together, ICE and local officials develop an enforcement plan tailored to each community’s needs.
For example, ICE and local officials might determine that transnational gang activity is a burgeoning problem in a particular area. Working together, they then develop an enforcement plan under Operation Community Shield, ICE’s flagship enforcement initiative targeting gangs.
With open communication, sharing of information and intelligence, and coordination of personnel and resources, the law enforcement community can develop a comprehensive “force multiplier” approach to combating dangerous criminal activity. The result: safer streets and communities for those whom an agency strives to protect and serve.
ICE ACCESS Programs
The ICE ACCESS program serves as an umbrella for a variety of specialized law enforcement initiatives and cooperative agreements, including the following:
- Delegated immigration enforcement authority under the ICE 287(g) program to enable state and local officers to enforce immigration law
- Operation Predator investigations to target dangerous predators who sexually exploit and abuse children
- Operation Community Shield investigations to target violent transnational criminal gangs
- Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces to combat identity theft, reduce fraud, and dismantle criminal organizations that traffic in fraudulent documentation
- Criminal Alien Program to identify illegal aliens housed in state and local prisons and target them for deportation when their sentences have ended
- Customs cross-designation authority to allow state and local officers to work narcotics, money laundering, and smuggling cases
- Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BESTs) to coordinate enforcement efforts in high-crime border areas
- Asset forfeiture and equitable sharing arrangements of seizures stemming from joint operations
- Programs targeting fugitives, counterfeiting, and other law enforcement challenges
Working through ICE ACCESS, state and local law enforcement agencies can realize the benefits of participating in any of these programs, in a way that is cost-effective and gets results.
In the 21st century, criminal activity does not observe jurisdictional or bureaucratic boundaries. Advances in information technology, communication, and transportation have made criminal organizations and activity more mobile, more nimble, and more dangerous; therefore, it is more critical than ever that law enforcement agencies work together. ICE ACCESS makes that cooperation easier than ever before. ■
ICE’s Office of State and Local Coordination was created in December 2007 to establish and maintain working relationships with law enforcement agencies at all levels of government through the ICE ACCESS program. More information is available at www.ice.gov.