California’s unique culture and geography create a lot of challenges for special agents working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The state’s 140-mile border with Mexico and its 840 miles of coastline have made California a Mecca for international drug traffickers.
In addition, California has the largest number of illegal immigrants in the country. Estimates from 2010 place their numbers at 2.55 million, comprising some 6.8% of the state’s population.
Requirements to Become an ICE Agent in California
ICE has high standards for those who seek to join the agency as criminal investigators, also known as special agents. Having law enforcement and criminal investigative experience can help to meet the agency’s strict education requirements.
At least a year of graduate study is required unless the applicant meets the following standards for their bachelor’s degree:
- Ranking in the top third of their class
- Having been elected to a national honor society
- Possessing a GPA that includes either:
- A B in all courses (overall or the last two years)
- A B+ in all courses related to the major (overall or in the last two years)
Additional standards include being a US. citizen and being less than 37 years old. The latter requirement can be waived for veterans. When they are ready, applicants should apply for positions when they are posted on the federal website for US government jobs.
Once applicants have been screened, including undergoing a thorough background check, those accepted are sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Georgia. They are paid for 22 weeks of training that has a variety of aspects, including the following:
- Firearms proficiency
- Physical conditioning
California residents who want to learn more about how to become an ICE agent should contact the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for their region. Given California’s size, there are three ICE SAC offices in the state. Their locations and phone numbers are listed below:
- Los Angeles: 562-624-3800
- San Diego: 619-744-4600
- San Francisco: 415-844-5455
ICE Arrests in California
ICE agent careers in California involve making a number of high profile arrests and thwarting a diverse array of criminal activities.
Stopping Drug Traffickers – Drug trafficking is a problem throughout California. In particular, Los Angeles serves as a distribution point for drugs to be shipped across the U.S. While the local production of marijuana and methamphetamine is common in California, international cartels are also highly active in the state. As border enforcement efforts have been tightened up, drug smugglers have found alternate ways to transport drugs from Mexico into the U.S.
One way that drug smugglers have been bringing multi-ton quantities of drugs into the US is through tunnels in the San Diego area. Between 2006 and 2013, eight large scale tunnels have been identified in that area alone. ICE is part of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force and helped to seize over eight tons of marijuana along with hundreds of pounds of cocaine from a massive tunnel in October 2013.
Arresting Criminal Aliens – California is frequently a haven for criminals from other countries. ICE agents have been aggressively pursuing criminals who are in the state illegally. In November and December of 2013 alone, ICE deported three murder suspects from Mexico in two separate cases.
Stopping Fraud – Criminal investigators for ICE pursue a variety of fraud cases in California. One of the more prominent arrests was that of a Nigerian type scammer who claimed to be the son of the president of Congo. He defrauded victims of almost $2 million and pled guilty in September 2013.
Stopping Human Traffickers – As border crossings from Mexico into California have become more difficult, human traffickers have stepped up their efforts and smuggle people into the county. In addition, the abuse of domestic workers is a persistent problem in the state.
One prominent case in July 2013 was that of a Saudi princess who had brought a Saudi national into the country to serve as a domestic worker. The woman was kept prisoner and claims to have been paid $220 a month to work seven days a week.