DHS Investigative Unit Scrubs ICE Connection So Sanctuary Cities Might Cooperate
Close-up of logo for the United States Department of Homeland Security on an emergency vehicle in San Francisco, California, February 25, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The branch of the Department of Homeland Security that handles transnational criminal investigations is rebranding itself in the hopes that major Democratic-controlled cities will cooperate with it.

The Department of Homeland Security’s investigative branch, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), is rebranding and scrubbing agents’ contact information of connections to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under which HSI technically exists. HSI officials have complained that the politics connected to ICE have made their jobs increasingly difficult in areas with “sanctuary city” laws, according to The Washington Post.

“HSI’s ‘independent branding’ will allow its agents ‘to work without the undue toxicity that in some places comes with the ICE moniker,'” according to the Post. “They’ll still be part of ICE, just like the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy,” ICE acting director Patrick Lechleitner said. 

HSI will roll out a new website empty of references to ICE, as well as a new agency insignia and badges for its agents that are similarly free of the ICE connection.

To make HSI an independent agency, which is what some officials have pushed for over the politics connected to ICE, an act of Congress would be required. The rebranding can avoid the hassle of navigating Capitol Hill while having the same effect, or so the hope goes.

HSI agents have been repeatedly blocked or refused information from local officials and police departments that operate under areas with sanctuary city laws. HSI officials say the agency’s connection to ICE gives people the wrong impression. Though HSI operates under ICE, it does not handle the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants. HSI’s main focus is investigating transnational crime and gangs.

“We try to the best ability within the entire agency to be apolitical,” Lechleitner said. “We’re not a political organization. We’re a law enforcement, national security, public safety agency. However, it was affecting HSI’s ability to conduct operations and investigations.”

The Department of Homeland Security has fallen deeper into divisive politics under President Joe Biden. The House impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who now awaits his trial in the Senate. House lawmakers impeached Mayorkas, the first cabinet secretary to be impeached in 150 years, on two articles for “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust.”

Illegal immigration into the United States has exploded under Biden and Mayorkas’ tenure. The monthly record for the number of illegal border crossings was broken in December when Border Patrol agents reported just under 250,000 arrests at the southern border. The numbers have fallen slightly since the start of the year, though they remain at historically high levels.

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