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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What else does ICE mean?

ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Where does ICE come from?

ICE was created after the passage of the United States Homeland Security Act. The act, a congressional move made in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, spelled out the creation of a new federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security. Underneath the Homeland Security umbrella were a number of new agencies, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, which was formed in March 2003.

ICE agents are officially charged with immigration enforcement, investigating illegal movement of people and goods, and preventing terrorism. As part of that mission, ICE performs Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), the term the agency uses to describe its removal of individuals from the United States who have been ordered to be deported.

ICE is not the same as the United States Border Patrol (USBP), but the two agencies do work together.

How is ICE used in real life?

Like many federal agencies (cf. NASA, FDA, CDC), the Immigration and Customs Enforcement is commonly referred to in its acronym form, ICE.

In the 2010–20s, the role of ICE in enforcing U.S. immigration policy has often been a source of dispute. For example, there have been calls to abolish ICE after the Trump administration was seen to deploy the agency aggressively to detain or deport migrants

More examples of ICE:

“Two sisters from El Salvador, ages 8 and 11, in U.S. government custody had just been approved for reunification with their Houston-based mom, when ICE stepped in and moved to deport them … ICE said its agents would only focus on detaining ‘public safety risks,’ as well as immigrants whose criminal records require the agency to apprehend them.”
—Graham Kates & Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, May 2020


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

British Dictionary definitions for ice.


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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012