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The Mapping Project

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Under cover of DHS "counterterrorism," Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for detentions, deportations, tracking, and surveillance of millions of migrants, and for tearing apart families and communities. ICE operates detention centers in Massachusetts county jails and has contracts with several MA businesses and institutions.


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is one of two agencies within the Department of Homeland Security which supplanted the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Customs Service when the Department of Homeland Security was established in 2002. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) together employed over 56,000 agents in 2016 -- the single largest police force in the US.

In context, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security following the events of September 11, 2001 and the reorganization of the entire immigration regime under its umbrella explicitly connected immigrants with "terrorism" and immigration enforcement with "counterterrorism." (See separate entry on Department of Homeland Security)

In September of 2002, the Bush administration instituted the "Special Registration" program, which was initially administered under the Immigration and Naturalization Service before being taken over by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Special Registration" required all male immigrants over the age of 16 from 25 countries, mostly places with Arab and Muslim majorities, to report to Immigration and Customs to prove their legal status, to be photographed and fingerprinted, and to submit to interrogations about their political views and religious beliefs. Anyone failing to report or found to be "out of status" faced arrest, detention, and deportation. In the first wave of implementation, hundreds of men and male children attempting to register were summarily arrested and thrown into basement lockups in California, where many were verbally and physically abused. (See: "Register or risk deportation: special registration targets men from 25 countries; most are Muslim nations," Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 16, 2003)

Under cover of these and other sweeping policies against Arab and Muslim men, the Department of Homeland Security also participated along with the FBI in more targeted campaigns of surveillance, arrests, and detentions against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim political activists who spoke out against US support for Israel or against US imperialism. Prominent cases included Palestinian activists Amer Jubran in Massachusetts, Sami Al-Arian in Florida, and Farouk Abdel-Muhti in New York.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement itself is further divided into Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). By its own description, "ERO manages all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including identification and arrest, domestic transportation, detention ... In addition, ERO removes noncitizens ordered removed from the U.S. to more than 170 countries around the world." Immigration Customs Enforcement-HSI states that they possess "broad legal authority to conduct federal criminal investigations into the illegal cross-border movement of people, goods, money, technology and other contraband throughout the United States." According to official DHS statistics, ICE, ERO, and HSI together arrested more than 150,000 people in 2019 alone. (The majority of DHS arrests were carried out by CBP agents, who arrested more than 850,000 people in the same year.) ICE ERO runs the system of prisons for migrants, including people arrested by the CBP,  imprisoning more than 500,000 people in 2019 alone.

ICE agents are known for raiding homes and workplaces, tearing apart families and communities, brutalizing detainees and holding them in crowded facilities under unlivable conditions. In 2020, medical whistleblowers revealed that migrant women in ICE detention had been subjected to forced sterilizations, and that migrants experienced other extreme forms of medical abuse and neglect.

ICE in Massachusetts

Multiple Massachusetts state and county prison and police forces participate or have participated in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program. Through the 287(g) program, state and county agencies are deputized to perform the roles of ICE agents as well as share information on arrested and detained individuals with ICE to assist ICE in tracking, detaining, and deporting these individuals. As reported by GBH: "287g agreements allow officers to interview already-detained people in county jails about their immigration status, check the Department of Homeland Security’s databases for information on those individuals, issue detainers to hold individuals set to be released so that ICE can then detain them, and share any information with ICE. They can also recommend and begin the process of deporting individuals." ICE currently holds 287(g) contracts with the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office as well as the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Until recently, ICE also held 287g contracts with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office (ended September 2021) and the Bristol County Sheriffs Office (ended May 2021).

Additionally, numerous MA law enforcement officials have been designated as "Task Force Officers" (TFOs), a status which grants these MA officials the authority to perform the duties of federal law enforcement agencies, including making arrests of individuals sought by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for detention and/or deportation. Officers from the Boston Police Department as well as numerous other local and county MA law enforcement agencies are known to serve or have served as TFOs. Focusing on the Boston Police, as reported by WBUR in 2019: "Boston police and federal immigration officials regularly offer information back and forth between the agencies. Often, the agencies are comparing arrest records of individuals accused of non-felony violations — like operating a vehicle without a license and shoplifting — to see if they have potential civil immigration violations, and vice versa." The same WBUR report further details, "The flow of information between BPD and ICE largely stems from a contract signed in 2014 by then-BPD Commissioner William Evans and a former U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent, Bruce Foucart. The agreement authorizes the designation of BPD employees to perform the roles and duties of customs officers, with limited exceptions."

Outside of formal collaborations with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, numerous MA law enforcement agencies share information with ICE by entering their field interviews, arrest, complaint, and accident reports, citation reports, and other information into "COPLINK," a surveillance and criminalization platform developed by IBM and the i2 software company. Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "have direct access to the Massachusetts version of the COPLINK system," enabling ICE to easily access information MA law enforcement officials enter into the platform and utilize this information to facilitate ICE's regime of tracking, detention, and deportation of migrants.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has operated four official detention centers inside Massachusetts county jails: Bristol County Detention Center (400 Faunce Corner Road, North Dartmouth); Franklin County House of Correction (160 Elm Street, Greenfield MA); Plymouth County Correctional Facility (26 Long Pond Road, Plymouth MA); and Suffolk County House of Corrections - South Bay (20 Bradston Street, Boston, MA). Suffolk County House of Corrections severed its contact with ICE in 2019. The Bristol County Detention Center's contract with ICE was also cancelled in May of 2021, following an attorney general investigation into the Detention Center along with a series of direct action protests against the facility carried out by the group FANG Collective. (Bristol County Detention Center is run by Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who is infamous for his abuse of migrants as well as other inmates. In 2002, Palestinian activist Jaoudat Abouazza was taken into custody by ICE and detained under Sheriff Hodgson in the Bristol County Detention Center, where he was beaten by guards and subjected to torture.)

ICE has several major contracts with local companies and institutions in Massachusetts, including the following: Industrial Video & Control Co., LLC, $10,151,574 (2014-2015), surveillance camera system; Lionbridge Global Solutions, current contract $8,840,022 (multiple past contracts), language translation; Lenco Industries, $9,888,564, armored vehicles and Bearcats; Eclinicalworks LLC, $3,256,748, Eclinicalworks licenses; Gemini Industries, $2,396,790 (2016-2021), LEISI [Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative] program management and support; Northeastern University, $2,141,294 (2016-2018), exploratory mapping for big data sets; Northeastern University, $198,754 (2010-2017), support services to assist in development of counter proliferations investigations fusion center; Iron Mountain Information Management, over $4,000,000 in multiple and ongoing contracts, including information storage, digitization of records etc.; Akamai Technologies, $601,299, distributed denial of service Akamai Prolexic Software.

(For more information on policing in Massachusetts, see entry on Boston Police.)

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