Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent

On March 1, 2003, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was discontinued. Under the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS), three new agencies – the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – were established to assume the functions previously performed by INS. Within ICE, two powerful investigative and immigration enforcement agencies were formed to respond to threats to U.S. national security: the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) – HSI being the larger of the two.

With well over 6,500 Special Agents, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is one of the largest federal investigative agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the entire United States. Formerly known as the ICE Office of Investigations, HSI today is responsible for investigating crimes and immigration violations that threaten U.S. national security. Specifically, HSI agents investigate issues relating to art theft, Cultural Property and Antiquites crimes, human trafficking and smuggling, human rights violations, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, financial crimes, money laundering, transnational gangs, trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and a range of computer crimes (including the production and distribution of child pornography). From time to time HSI Special Agents will work closely with the Secret Service to provide additional security for politicians, heads of state, and other VIPs.

Within the Department of Homeland Security, HSI comprises six function divisions: Domestic Operations Divisions, Intelligence Division, International Operations Division, Mission Support, National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and National Security Investigations Division.

Office of Intelligence
The Office of Intelligence is one of six HSI divisions. It employs various Special Agents and Intelligence Research Specialists with diverse backgrounds and expertise in order to meet the agency's tactical and strategic intelligence needs. These agents and intelligence specialists work together and independently to collect and analyze highly sensitive intelligence which is used by other DHS departments and agencies to support ground-based investigative and law enforcement operations. While the Office of Intelligence is under the direct jurisdiction of the DHS, it works closely with other federal, state and local intelligence agencies. HSI intelligence agents and analysts are often assigned to work within a specific functional group, such as narcotics, financial crimes, computer crimes, counter-proliferation, etc. Agents and analysts may also be assigned to work within Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs) where they'll focus on collecting, analyzing and disseminating Human Intelligence (HUMINT).

International Operations
International Operations (IO), formerly a component of the Office of International Affairs (OIA), is a division of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) whose agents work in over 60 strategic, international locations. These agents assist foreign governments in indentifying and fighting international and transnational crimal organizationals and elements that pose a threat domestically and to the national security of the United States. IO also supports HSI domestic investigations within the borders of the United States.

Special Response Teams
Special Response Team (SRT) is the "SWAT" (Special Weapons and Tactics) of Homeland Security Investigations. HSI currently has 17 SRTs operating in offices throughout the United States. SRTs are responsible for performing high-risk arrests and search warrants, providing VIP security detail and protection, supporting rural area operations, and providing sniper coverage. SRTs are currently operating in St. Paul, Phoenix (AZ), New Orleans, Houston, New York, Dallas, Detroit, San Juan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, El Paso, Tampa, Chicago, San Diego, Miami, and Washington, D.C. SRTs are typically reserved for high-risk operations but also assist in natural disasters domestically and internationally.

If you're interested in joining an SRT, you'll first need to become an HSI agent in a office where there is an operating SRT. To become an SRT member, candidates must be physically fit and pass a fitness exam, shoot 90% or better on multiple firearm tests, and pass a series of interviews. If a candidate passes all preliminary tests and exams, they become a "Green Team" member and begin their training with an SRT. Eventually, Green Team members are required to attend the SRT certification school located in Fort Benning, Georgia. Becoming an SRT member is exclusive and difficult. Of the roughly 6,500 Special Agents that work for HSI in the United States, only 250 are SRT members.

SRTs within HSI often work closely with other federal and state law enforcement agencies when performing high-risk operations on a large scale. HSI SRTs train with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, the Army's Delta Force, and the Navy's Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). Through a strategic relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense's Special Operations Command, HSI SRTs have been given access to the latest combat gear and firearms designed and designated for U.S. Special Mission Units (SMUs) – elite special operations forces.

Training, Education and Qualifications
All new ICE recruits are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia – sometimes referred to as the ICE Academy. Depending the position being applied to, trainees will spend between 4 and 6 months at the ICE Academy before beginning field work. Following graduation from ICE Academy, new hires will receive additional field-specific training. All newly hired ICE law enforcement officer, agents and personnel will learn the basics of immigration law, law enforcement tactics, emergency response driving, firearms training, and Constitutional law. HSI Special Agents undergo additional training in warrant service, U.S. customs law, criminal interrogation, advanced tactics, and weapons of mass destruction, and other field-specific areas.

Becoming an HSI agent is very difficult. Less than 5% of applicants are ever hired and trained as HSI Special Agents.

While not always necessary, earning a college degree is a common prerequisite to pursuing a career with ICE or any of its seven divisions including HSI. Earning a four-year bachelor's degree in law enforcement, criminal justice, national security or closely related field of study is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. ICE is looking for law enforcement professionals with diverse skill sets, knowledge and educational backgrounds. A degree in computer science could land you a job just easily as a degree in criminal justice if you're interested in working in HSI's computer crimes division.

Below are some useful degrees that can get you headed in the right direction.

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The .40 caliber SIG Sauer P229R pistol with a modified double action kellerman trigger is the standard issue sidearm for HSIA Special Agents. Other weapons that HSI agents often use include the Remington Model 870 shotgun, Colt M4 carbine, or Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun.

ICE agents typically earn anywhere from $47,791 to $61,671 a year. Pay is based on seniority, experience and position.

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