ICE Immigration-Enforcement Officers Thumb Noses at HSI ‘Rebrand’

ERO head refuses to engage in ‘political theater’ — and poll shows public support for his mission

By Andrew R. Arthur on April 29, 2024

As I recently reported, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Patrick J. Lechleitner is allowing special agents in his agency’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit to “rebrand” their directorate to remove the “immigration” taint. Immigration officers in the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) branch don’t have that option — immigration enforcement is all ERO does — and instead are, in my estimation, thumbing their noses at their newly cleansed and liberated comrades, with the ERO head vowing not to “be swayed by political theater or media rhetoric”.

A Rebranding Recap. In 2018, 19 HSI special agents in charge (SACs) sent an undated letter to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, asking her "to restructure ICE into the two separate, independent entities of HSI and ERO".

They complained that such a restructuring was necessary because their non-immigration work was being impeded by certain jurisdictions that “perceived” HSI “as targeting undocumented aliens, instead of the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes impacting our communities and national security”.

The current acting ICE director was among the SACs who signed that letter, as “P.J. Lechleitner”, but he did not — and could not — restructure the agency as he and the other SACs requested when he took acting command of the agency in June 2023, nor did he immediately initiate an HSI rebranding.

Perhaps he was playing a long game, or maybe there was a separate precipitating event that led to these cosmetic changes, though whatever prompted the rebranding has not been publicly disclosed.

Such changes are patent, however, with HSI launching its own “” page and issuing the following tweet on April 23:

As a middle-aged man who’s been follicly challenged since his early 20s, I can dispositively state that if I were to suddenly reappear at this late date in my rather parochial community sporting a lush mane of gorgeous locks, neighbors and friends would tell me it looks great to my face while privately snickering about my vanity and presumptuousness behind my back.

In that vein, Fox News noted: “The rollout was accompanied by a slick video posted on X, which told viewers to ‘Please allow us to reintroduce ourselves’ — a possible nod to rapper Jay Z’s ‘Public Service Announcement.’” Sometimes, less really is more, and other times you should just play the hand you’re dealt.

Bible’s Response. Speaking of Fox News, the outlet reported that:

the rebranding appears to have caused some frustration at the ERO side of ICE, which unlike its neighbor is keeping its ICE branding. In an internal email to ERO employees, seen by Fox News Digital, ERO Executive Associate Director Daniel Bible noted the HSI rebrand, but made it clear that ERO would not be following suit.

"HSI’s decision was made in what its leadership believes is best for the program," he said. "Similarly, [ERO] decisions are guided by what is believed to be the best for it operational and programmatically. ERO has and always will continue to focus its decision making on its most important attribute: each of you."

Unfortunately, Fox News didn’t provide the whole E-mail for greater context, so it’s difficult to tell whether Bible is: (1) truly frustrated; (2) expressing smug indifference; or (3) simply reassuring his embattled troops that he — at least — supports their mission.

My money is on some combination of 2 and 3, but if the second option is his sole intended point, kudos to him. It’s not clear how that sat with Lechleitner, but it doesn’t appear Bible much cares.

That’s particularly true given other excerpts from that e-mail offered by Fox News, and in particular the following: "ERO operates with professionalism, honor, compassion and integrity. Our mission will not be swayed by political theater or media rhetoric and our identity will remain steadfast.”

The plain implication is that HSI leadership and Lechleitner are hamming it up in said political theater and are kowtowing to those who denigrate immigration enforcement.

Although Bible likely never intended his comments to be publicly disclosed, he’s demonstrating a level of intestinal fortitude that appears to be in limited supply in other parts of his agency — not surprising given what appears to be his distinguished military record.

“Exclusive Poll: America Warms to Mass Deportations”. And while on the topic of those who denigrate immigration enforcement, their numbers appear to be dwindling, if an April 25 article in Axios headlined “Exclusive poll: America warms to mass deportations” is any proof.

It includes the results of a poll recently conducted for that outlet by The Harris Poll of 6,251 U.S. adults between late March and the beginning of April, which reveals that just over half — 51 percent — of those surveyed support large-scale removal operations of aliens unlawfully present in the United States.

That includes 56 percent of whites, 45 percent of Latinos, 46 percent of Independents, 60 percent of senior citizens — and 42 percent of Democrats.

“Mass deportations” would be unlikely even if Donald Trump were to return to office with a 60-seat GOP majority in the House and a filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate, but regardless these results show that Americans by and large are fed up with the non-enforcement policies they have been seeing out of Washington, D.C., of late.

More limited operations involving the deportation of criminal aliens and of at least some of the million-plus aliens who’ve had their day in court but remain here under final orders of removal, however, are likely at some point in the immediate future, and the only agency in the federal government that can execute such operations is ICE.

That would mean that not only Bible’s embattled officers but also Lechleitner’s rebranded HSI agents would have to get their hands dirty doing the surveillance, arrests, detentions, and removals that the latter apparently believe to be below their station and dignity.

Having served nearly 25 years in the federal government, I can assure you that nobody holds your kids in a cellar to force you to take the job — be it GS-1 clerk or series 1811 special agent. Moreover, trained agents are always in high demand, so if any or all of the ones in HSI don’t like the “immigration” part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they can easily go elsewhere, and should.

The stated justification for the restrictions the Biden administration has placed on ICE enforcement is “preserving limited resources”. If ICE resources are so scarce, they should be expended on the agency’s mission — deporting removable aliens, which a majority of Americans want — and not on “political theater” like HSI rebranding. That quote is right out of Bible.