The unassuming office in Williston, Vermont, supports enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and plays an important role in the identification of criminal aliens.
Vermont may not be the location that springs to mind when considering the epicenter of immigration enforcement, but the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) serves as the starting point for many of the agency’s immigration enforcement actions.
An ICE headquarters component, the center supports federal, state and local law enforcement by providing information about illegal aliens.
The center acts as the only established mechanism through which state and local law enforcement personnel can request information about an individual’s status from ICE.
The center supports and coordinates enforcement action with ICE offices nationwide.
Center Director Linda Past appreciates her employees’ contributions to ICE and the nation.
“I know we make a difference,” she said.
“Every day, our actions directly affect law enforcement and have an impact on the safety of our communities across the nation.”
Two types of employees work at the center: law enforcement specialists and deportation officers.
The law enforcement specialists, the majority of the staff, research and respond to individual law enforcement requests.
The deportation officers help coordinate law enforcement actions, create actionable leads for field offices and investigate U.S. citizenship claims, serving as the checks and balances for the agency.
Law enforcement specialists at the center conduct person-centric data analysis and respond to the requesting law enforcement agency and Enforcement and Removal Operations field office that has jurisdiction over the area with information that includes immigration status and identity.
If the individual is especially dangerous to the public, that status is also conveyed.
The center provides real-time telephonic response to law enforcement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
ICE officers can obtain immigration status and identity information to facilitate law enforcement decisions while conducting field operations.
During fiscal year 2016, the center responded to more than 1.5 million law enforcement requests for information and resolved more than 109,000 telephonic requests for assistance.
The center contributes more records to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) than any government entity.
When law enforcement officers encounter deported felons or dangerous criminal aliens in the field and access the NCIC system, they may get a hit on a center record.
In that case, the center responds by identifying the subject and helping stop fugitive aliens.
Law Enforcement Specialist Omar S. Calhum-Flowers takes a personal sense of mission to the center each day.
“I like working for ICE because of its mission,” Calhum-Flowers said.
“I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2002 at 17 and have always worked in some form of public safety. Doing my small part to ensure that my family, and yours, is able to attain some level of peace during these times makes it all worth while.”
Deportation Officer Nate Cardoza brings flexibility to the workplace.
“A deportation officer has to be prepared to adapt to and implement the changes we face each hour and day because law enforcement work is not static by nature.”
In addition to the quality of the mission, Past acknowledged the unique learning opportunities available to employees at the center.
“There is a great opportunity here to become an expert at criminal database research and immigration status, a skill set that enhances many ERO career paths,” Past said.
“Our employees support a variety of initiatives and see the national ICE perspective.”
ICE employees at the center enjoy an enviable lifestyle: pristine Vermont offers low crime, clean air and water, no toll routes or bad traffic, good schools, a thriving farm-to-table restaurant scene and a myriad of outdoor seasonal sports and activities.
The Burlington metro area sits in the northwestern part of the state and has a population of approximately 200,000, one third of Vermont’s total population. The city overlooks Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks and Green Mountains.