In a move that surprised many in the international trade community, Tom Winkowski, former Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), effective immediately, is now in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, popularly known as "ICE". Mr. Winkwoski's new official title is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. Mr. Winkowski had over 30 years of knowledge and experience with U.S. Customs, including what many refer to as 'the good old days' pre-9/11 under the U.S. Customs Service when he was a Port Director in Los Angeles and Miami.
ICE is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries. The "Mission" of ICE is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration. The agency has an annual budget of more than $5.7 billion dollars, primarily devoted to its two principal operating components - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). As stated in ICE's current 'Strategic Plan' are topics already familiar to Mr. Winkowski:
The four key priorities for the agency's future:
- Prevent terrorism and enhance security
- Protect the borders against illicit trade, travel and finance
- Protect the borders through smart and tough interior immigration enforcement
- Construct an efficient, effective agency
This move by Mr. Winkowski, one of CBP's most decorated and accomplished executives, comes soon after CBP received its new Commissioner. Mr. R. Gil Kerlikowske was nominated by President Obama, and sworn in on March 7, 2014, as Commissioner of CBP. CBP has 60,000 employees, and budget of $12.4 billion. Most recently, Mr. Kerlikowske served as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He brings four decades of law enforcement and drug policy experience to his new position at CBP. He formerly served nine years as the Chief of Police for Seattle, Washington.
Commissioner Kerlikowske will deliver an address at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarder Association's Annual Meeting held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 6-10, 2014. We will see if 40 years of drug enforcement will help CBP properly rebalance its 200 year, proud history of facilitating international trade rather than hindering it under the guise of "national security".