Law Enforcement & Customs Agents Response to Human Trafficking

The trafficking of human beings is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry and the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the United States.  Trafficking victims in the United States can be either US citizens who are coerced or forced into sex or labor trades or foreign nationals who are coerced or forced into those same acts.  Roughly two-thirds of all trafficking victims in the United States are from other countries (with China and South America making up the largest percentage of trafficking victims).  Because of the lucrative nature of the business, investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases is a very dangerous job for law enforcement officials on the local, state and federal levels.  Traffickers will do anything to protect their business, including killing victims, advocates and agents investigating cases.  Human trafficking has been identified as the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide generating billions in illegal revenue.

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An example is the recent killing of US Immigration and Customs Agent, Jaime Zapata.  Zapata was part of the human smuggling and trafficking unit.  He and fellow agent, Victor Avila, were fired upon by a gang of Mexican nationals outside the city of San Luis Potosi, Mexico on February 15, 2011.  Zapata did not survive the blitz attack.  Agent Avila was wounded and is recovering in a hospital in the United States.  Both agents were charged with the task of investigating human smuggling and trafficking cases and helping present cases in court for prosecution.  Suspects have been arrested but content the shooting was due to mistaken identity-the shooters claim the agent vehicle resembled that of a rival gang.

ICE agents are charged with the task of identifying trafficking victims, investigating cases of trafficking, arresting offenders, and aiding in the prosecution of traffickers. There are many requirements to becoming an ICE agent.  To be an eligible candidate for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, you must be a citizen of the United States, have lived in the US for three of the five years prior to applying (or been a US citizen working overseas with the US military or be the dependent of US military personnel working overseas), be between the ages of 21 and 37, possess a valid US driver’s license, have a clean criminal history (and no history of civil restraining orders for crimes of domestic violence), successfully complete mandatory basic training, successfully complete mandatory firearms training, and be in top physical condition.

In addition to the above named requirements, candidates for ICE positions must have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or related field.  For those seeking Superior Academic Achievement status, they must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

The application process includes an online application outlining the applicant’s education, skills, knowledge, abilities and work history.  In addition, candidates are required to complete an occupational questionnaire, special agent test battery, and submit a writing sample.  These items are carefully screened and those that meet certain criteria are then scheduled for a structured interview.  If the candidates pass the structured interview phase, they are then scheduled for a personal interview. Additional application requirements include a clean drug screen, medical clearance, and a clean background/security check.  In addition, they must meet the physical requirements to work in the conditions most ICE agents are required to endure.

The process to become an ICE agent is not an easy one.  The responsibilities of ICE agents are numerous, but those who are up for the challenge will find it a very rewarding career.