The recent push by Democrats and a handful of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the US to disband the currently controversial government agency has far-reaching ramifications – and not just for import and export clearances – if its unlikely dissolution is passed.

ICE’s two critical operational offices are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which investigates commercial fraud and is home to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, and Enforcement and Removal Operations, which is responsible for implementing policies in place to combat illegal immigration – the issue currently in the news for the temporary separation of families alleged to have crossed into the US illegally, as reported by American Shipper.

ICE’s trade investigations deal with antidumping and countervailing duties, wildlife trafficking, imports violating environmental standards and importation of goods produced from forced labour, as reported by American Shipper.

A CBP press release revealed that in the fiscal year 2017, ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized a record number of 34,143 shipments of goods that violated Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), with an estimated manufacturers’ retail price of USD$1.2b.

According to George Lauriat, Editor-in-Chief of American Journal of Transportation, an ongoing complaint of shippers is that these agencies’ first “mission” is border protection, such as illegal immigration, and that processing imports and exports come second. “Even before the issues with ICE, the debate over which ‘mission’ is first has always been at the forefront of relations with forwarders and intermediaries and BCOs,” Lauriat explained.

At least 19 ICE special agents, US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and several members of the US House of Representatives have called for ICE to be axed, according to reports by Business Insider and Time. The chance of the elimination of ICE is slim, however. ICE will not be abolished, according to David Cullen, Executive Editor of Heavy Duty Trucking and, who also covers Washington D.C. news and writes a monthly global news column.

“There has been rhetoric calling for its abolishment by protesters fed up with the excess of the [President] Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies,” Cullen explained. “But ICE will not be abolished simply because, all things being equal, it ensures the nation’s laws on immigration and customs activities are enforced.”

CBP is the agency that enforces trade activity. As soon as a seizure of goods has occurred, the case is transferred to ICE for investigation. Criminal prosecution and criminal organisation dismantlement in the trade environment is the goal of ICE, according to former CBP Assistant Commissioner for International Trade Al Gina as reported by American Shipper. If ICE was abolished, the impact on the efficiency of trade enforcement functions would be felt across the board, Gina said.