How to Become an ICE Agent in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a key state for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations. The state is home to four ICE detention facilities, with Philadelphia being the location of both a Special Agent in Charge principal field office and an Enforcement and Removal Office.

Recently, ICE Criminal Investigators in Pennsylvania have been involved in some nationally profiled cases, including that of a suspected terrorist plot at the Philadelphia International Airport, which resulted in the entire facility being shut down.

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ICE Agents conduct both undercover and overt investigative operations that usually target illegal trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people, federal financial crimes, and crimes against children- in 2013 alone ICE Agents were involved in no less than 24 cases related to child pornography and abuse.

When it comes to illegal immigration, by a recent count ICE was holding 1,109 prisoners in the following Pennsylvania facilities:

  • Clinton County Correction Facility – 77
  • Cambria County Jail – 26
  • Pike County Correctional Facility – 177
  • York County Prison – 829


Preparing for a Career with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Learning how to become an ICE Agent involves several steps, the first of which requires meeting some basic qualifications. All prospective agents need to be US citizens with no felony convictions, and must also be able to carry and operate a firearm. Next, ICE Criminal Investigators will also need to have at least a year of experience in subjects related to:

  • Civil procedures
  • Criminal investigations
  • Criminal report writing
  • Investigative principles
  • Searches, seizures, and arrests

Finally, ICE Criminal Investigator candidates need to have either a bachelor degree plus a year of master’s courses, or a bachelor degree plus a distinction such as being in the top third of their class, having a 3.0 GPA, or having a 3.5 GPA in their major. Prospective agents may consider degrees in the following subjects which will also help to fulfill the experience requirement:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Law Enforcement
  • Police Science
  • Forensics
  • Law

From Pittsburgh and Scranton to Allentown and Erie, choosing a school program for ICE careers is not difficult in Pennsylvania; in addition to a number of online opportunities there are also dozens of public and private four-year institutions offering bachelor degrees in a wide variety of subjects.

Working in Pennsylvania

After being hired and completing 22 weeks of basic training for ICE jobs at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, new agents will be ready to go into action. In this line of work every day can bring a new and different challenge, as demonstrated by these recent ICE operations across Pennsylvania:

  • Three airline and airport employees were recently arrested after ICE Agents uncovered a plot that involved a corrupt baggage handler at the Philadelphia International Airport. After the security event unfolded live on national television, ICE Special Investigators were able to determine that instead of placing a bomb on a Bermuda-bound airplane, the baggage handler was in fact smuggling bags of drugs to a corrupt counterpart who worked at the destination airport.
  • ICE Agents recently deported a Belarusian man after he served two years in prison on a conviction for exporting defense articles without a license. Cold War spy plots against the US are uncommon these days, however ICE Agents must continue to be watchful of Belarusian infiltrators who still participate in this type of activity.
  • After uncovering a scheme that involved smuggling heroin hidden inside the bodies of live human couriers, ICE Agents were able to indict 11 members of a Dominican-based drug smuggling organization. Centered around the Philadelphia International Airport, agents allege the illegal operation took place over the course of two years.

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