Criminal activity in Arizona poses a serious threat to US security. Special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the country’s second largest investigative body, are highly active trying to thwart this type of activity in Arizona.
Arizona’s border with Mexico spans 376 miles. This has facilitated the illegal entry of people and drugs into the country. In 2010, Arizona had the fifth highest level of illegal immigrants in the country with the estimated population being 400,000 people. As increased border control efforts have made it more difficult to cross into Arizona, human smugglers have ramped up their efforts.
Drug trafficking has also been a long term problem in Arizona, and drug interdictions in the state are frequently measured in tons. In addition to bringing drugs into the country, these traffickers frequently send money and weapons across the border back to Mexico. This has resulted in an even more dangerous situation with the number of attacks on law enforcement officials in Arizona intensifying in recent years.
Education Requirements and Other Prerequisites
One of the most in demand jobs with ICE is that of a criminal investigator, or special agent. The agency has high standards for those who would join their ranks. Having a background in criminal investigations or law enforcement can help applicants meet the rigorous education requirement.
Applicants must be prepared to meet the requirements for a GL-7 position at the minimum. ICE requires either a year of graduate level education or a bachelor’s degree with evidence of distinction. This can include one of the following:
- Being in the top one third of the college class
- Having one of the following GPAs:
- All courses completed or in the last two years: a B
- All major courses completed or in the last two years: a B+
- Having been elected to a national honor society
In addition, applicants who are not veterans must be younger than 37. Being a US citizen is also a requirement. To begin an ICE agent career, applicants can apply for positions when they are available on the USA jobs website.
Training for ICE Special Agents
ICE agency recruits learn how to become a special agent by undergoing a 22-week training period at the Federal Law Enforcement Center (FELC) that is located in Georgia. The coursework includes the following:
- Firearms training
- Physical conditioning
Recruits must be prepared to pass random drug tests.
The agency encourages potential ICE agents to contact the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for their area. For residents of Arizona, this would be the Phoenix Field Office SAC who can be contacted at 602-514-7363.
ICE at Work in Arizona
ICE special agents are active in a number of different types of investigations in Arizona:
Drug trafficking into Arizona is at such high levels that nine counties were designated as the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in 1990. Smugglers bring about half of the marijuana that crosses the Southwestern border through Arizona.
All of the counties that border Mexico are part of the Arizona HIDTA, which includes 90% of the population of the state. In 2010, members of the Sinoloa cartel were becoming increasingly active importing drugs into Arizona and were considered the most serious drug trafficking threat.
As US officials have cracked down on border points of entry and increased their surveillance between the border crossings, drug traffickers have altered their methods. This has included using ultra-light aircraft and the persistent use of tunnels, particularly in the Nogales area.
As recently as December 2013, members of the ICE-led Nogales Tunnel Task Force identified a 52 foot long tunnel across the Nogales border into a backyard shed in the city. ICE also spearheads the Santa Cruz County HIDTA Investigation Task Force. Working closely with local authorities, agents seized over 2,900 pounds of marijuana from a horse trailer on a Nogales highway in September 2013.
ICE has made pioneering efforts to identify child pornographers and disrupt the distribution of such images. In one four month period alone in 2013, three men from Arizona were individually sentenced to long jail terms for distributing child pornography.
One case alone that was investigated by ICE agents, the IRS, and the Chandler police department involved a $10 million fraud case. A grocery store owner in Chandler deposited over 10,000 false money orders and engaged in identify theft in a thirteen month period ending in June 2011.