ICE leads effort to prepare for mass migration incidents

In the mid-1990s, tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans attempted to seek refuge in the United States during what was deemed Operation Sea Signal. Years before that, tens of thousands of Cubans exited their country for the United States during the Mariel Boatlift. Both of these events serve as examples of mass migration and historical reminders of how such events can affect a nation's security.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano recently directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop a national-level mass migration plan. The plan must outline how to address the health care, sheltering, processing, transition and disposition of large numbers of undocumented individuals who may arrive in the United States as the result of mass migration.

ICE's immigration enforcement authorities provide the agency the expertise to lead the development and execution of this plan. ICE has a multitude of experience in caring for large numbers of people. On a daily basis, ICE houses nearly 33,000 detainees nationwide who await deportation or further legal action.

While this plan is a preventative measure, it is part of DHS' ongoing commitment to contingency planning for possible events that could affect our national security. It falls under the new Presidential Policy Directive on National Preparedness.

ICE is currently working with leadership from several other agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State and Health and Human Services. Representatives from these agencies have identified the following three objectives:

Build a common understanding as to the task, scope, planning organization, planning process and milestones;
Educate the partner community on mass migration issues through a formal threat analysis and review of historical and current mass migration events;
Assign roles, responsibilities and tasks for the planning effort.
Gary Mead, executive associate director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and Richard M. Chavez, director of the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning for DHS, have both spoken of the importance of the plan, emphasizing the complexity of the challenge facing the planning team, as well as the need for broad-based collaboration among all the agencies who have a stake in the domestic mass migration issue.

"It's really all about preparedness," said Mike Webster, acting unit chief for the ICE ERO Incident Response Unit. "The most important thing we can do is give our employees the tools they need to succeed at their job."


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