ICE Press Operation Concentrates on Everything but Immigration

By David North, January 9, 2013

A good – and very public – test of an agency's priorities is what its press people write about.

If you apply that test to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) you will see that while immigration is the agency's first name, its staff of publicists seem to prefer writing about just about everything else.

I am a recovering government press guy and I know whereof I speak, having written for the U.S. Department of the Interior and the N.J. State Labor Department, among others. Whereas most government agencies' priorities are driven pretty much by their legal duties and the nature of their funding, the press operations have no such constraints.

Government pressies write about what their bosses want to see in print. To use a literary metaphor, if the daily work of the agency is as restricted as the rules for a sonnet, then the press operation routinely writes in free verse.

Bearing those notions in mind, I always look at a regular offering of the ICE press office; every Saturday (save the Christmas week) it publishes "ICE's top 5 news stories for the week ending ..."

This listing shows what the press people think is interesting, and more generally, what they have been told to write about. Rarely does this include many mentions of immigration.

For instance, the full text of the most recent one, for the week ending January 4, 2013, follows:

Jan. 3, 2013 – 123 sexually exploited children identified by HSI during 'Operation Sunflower'
One hundred twenty-three victims of child sexual exploitation were identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents during an international operation aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce images of child pornography. Full Story

Jan. 4, 2013 – 'Jane Doe' child pornography suspect arrested in Los Angeles
Just hours after federal authorities made a national announcement appealing to the public for leads in a child pornography case with ties to the Los Angeles area, Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, was taken into custody without incident Jan. 3 by special agents with ICE's HSI and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department. Full Story

Dec. 28, 2012 – Florida man pleads guilty in New York to smuggling dinosaur fossils
A Florida man pleaded guilty Dec. 27 to engaging in a scheme to illegally import into the United States numerous dinosaur fossils that had been smuggled out of their native country. This guilty plea resulted from an investigation by ICE's HSI. Full Story

Jan. 3, 2013 – Leader of internet piracy group ‘IMAGiNE' sentenced in Virginia to 60 months in prison for criminal copyright conspiracy.
The leader of the Internet piracy group ‘IMAGiNE' was sentenced Jan. 3 to 60 months in prison following an investigation by ICE's HSI in Washington, D.C. The defendant was indicted along with three others April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Full Story

Jan. 4, 2013 – HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize 2600 pounds of cocaine, arrest 2
ICE's HSI, working jointly with other members of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), arrested two Dominican Republic nationals for drug trafficking and seized 2,600 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $29 million Jan. 2 off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Full Story

The top five stories for the week ending December 21 included four non-immigration subjects, and one on immigration, the number of deportations conducted during the year. Similarly, the top five stories for the week ending December 14 all dealt with non-immigration matters.

So, for these three weeks the score was non-immigration matters 14, immigration 1.

To be fair, ICE does grind out some releases about immigration subjects, but it rarely accords any of them top billing for the week.

Now, child pornography is truly evil, stealing other folks' copyrights is a nasty form of theft, and one really should not purloin someone else's dinosaur bones – but you would not know that ICE's major task is the enforcement of the immigration law if your only information about the agency came from these press summaries.