DHS agency to keep its name

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau will not get a name change, Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia told employees Friday afternoon.

The announcement puts an end to a months-long effort by ICE officials to change the name to U.S. Investigations and Criminal Enforcement, a title they felt more aptly described the range of missions carried out by the agency, which is the investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department. The recommended new name received favorable reviews from senior homeland security officials, including Asa Hutchinson, the department's undersecretary for border and transportation security, but ultimately was not adopted.

"While hopeful that our name could be changed to more accurately reflect the scope of our mission and the diversity of our law enforcement authorities, I feel it is more important at this time to move forward," Garcia told employees in an e-mail.

The assistant secretary cited the need to issue ICE badges and credentials to agency personnel, and the length of time that had passed since the name change was proposed, as reasons for his decision. Because ICE's name has been in flux, ICE agents still carry badges from their former agencies, such as the Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Some ICE employees say the name change was scuttled by the FBI, which did not want ICE to use the word "investigations" in its title. "Every agent feels that way," said one ICE agent. A former Homeland Security official who asked to remain anonymous backed this view, saying the issue was discussed by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "There were some meetings on it at very high levels involving Secretary Ridge and Director Mueller, and the bottom line is the FBI won out," said the former official.

Asked if the FBI thwarted the name change, Russ Knocke, an ICE spokesman, would not comment. An FBI spokesman also declined to comment. Time Magazine first reported the FBI's opposition to ICE's proposed name.

Garcia has said that he believed the new name would have helped develop an identity for ICE, which has more than 20,000 employees and a variety of missions, including protection of the airspace over Washington, D.C., and detainment and removal of illegal aliens. The Federal Air Marshals also belong to ICE. "Garcia's thought was to get away from the Immigration moniker and the Customs moniker, and build something new," said the former official.

Senior ICE officials initially were optimistic that the change would be accepted. "While we have a few important hurdles to clear, there is now a good chance that a name change to Investigations and Customs Enforcement will become a reality before too long," wrote John Clark, director of ICE's Office of Investigations, in a Dec. 15 e-mail to ICE special-agents-in-charge. "The very fact that this recommendation has risen relatively quickly through DHS is encouraging."

But the plan stalled when it reached the Office of Management and Budget, and other agencies, including the FBI, were asked to comment, sources said.

ICE spokesman Knocke would not say which officials outside ICE supported or opposed the name change. "There was consideration given to a potential name change, but it was simply that, it was consideration," he said. Knocke said the issuance of credentials now is a "prudent business decision" that will make it easier for ICE personnel to conduct investigations and detain illegal aliens.

In his statement, Garcia stressed that the decision to stick with ICE's current name does not reflect a change in mission. "Please be assured that this in no way represents a change in our role within the Department," he said. "You remain homeland security agents and officers with the broadest of investigative and enforcement authorities."

ICE plans to hand out new badges before the close of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), Knocke said.

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