There’s an ice storm in Atlanta today and I thought it was appropriate to write about ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I hope everyone here in the Southeast has stayed warm and safe as we’re dealt another cruel hand by Mother Nature.

As part of my non-profit work with the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN), I have the great privilege of working with anti-human trafficking advocates across the region. In fact, I’ve presented with amazing representatives from TapestriRaksha, and ICE. Yes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The same ICE that is characterized as an enemy of undocumented and removable immigrants can also be an immigrant’s answer to a prayer.

Though often unsung, ICE has a special investigations unit that works with immigrant victims of human trafficking. They work in our communities to find men, women, boys, and girls who have been brought to the United States for forced labor or for sexual exploitation.

ICE raids at massage parlors, restaurants, or salons are designed as much for rescuing as it is for arresting and prosecuting. When it appears that the victim lacks immigration status, ICE doesn’t throw the victim into the removal process. They evaluate on a case-by-case basis what the right thing to do is. Oftentimes, the victims are referred to community organizations for assistance in rebuilding their lives.

Traffickers often use ICE as a threat, telling the victim that if they don’t do what they’re told, that ICE will be called and they’ll be deported. Let them call ICE! When ICE sees what is happening, they will rescue the victims and arrest the traffickers. ICE removes the threat of deportation, allowing these victims to focus on healing and becoming survivors. ICE isn’t always the bad guy – they do a lot of great work and rescue people from modern day slavery.

If you suspect human trafficking, contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423).

– Tracie