August 9, 2006, - 2:05 pm

New ICE Academy Chief: Good News For Immigration Enforcement

By Debbie Schlussel
Why should you care about the inside baseball at ICE–Immigration & Customs Enforcement–a dysfunctional government agency that is supposed to enforce immigration laws?
Because what happens there gravely affects our nation’s security in terms of interior enforcement and deportation of illegal aliens. Those who run ICE at various levels affect immigration enforcement policy more than people realize.
One of those inside baseball moves of interest concerns Matthew Albence–a young (age 36), rapidly-advancing former INS agent. On Monday, he started his new assignment as head of the Office of Investigations at the ICE Academy, where all new ICE agents are trained (at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia).

mattalbence.jpg

Matthew Albence: New ICE Academy Investigations Chief

Since Albence comes from the immigration side of things, this is a good thing–given that immigration is now supposed to be a primary focus of ICE. Some agents have said Albence has little investigative experience, but other instructors can make up for that. Albence’s immigration knowledge and experience is far more important, and he is a good leader, we’re told.
We think he knows how to look at crime situations and draw conclusions, as he did in a dissertation he wrote on robberies in Illinois (Albence, Matthew T., 1994. “Convenient Targets: An Examination of Convenience Store Robberies in Carbondale, Illinois, From 1986 to 1993.” Southern Illinois University at Carbondale), which is among recommended reading by several agencies.
We don’t know Albence (sorry, ICE brass–he’s not one of our sources), but we know many agents who do and who’ve worked with him. Albence was the ICE’s Deputy Special Agent in Charge for Michigan and Ohio. While his boss, Michigan/Ohio ICE Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz a/k/a “Abu Moskowitz,” was and remains universally hated by his agents and colleagues, Albence had a lot of fans–even among legacy Customs agents–among those who’ve dealt with him. We only wish–in the heart of Islamic America–that Islamo-panderer Abu Moskowitz left and Albence stayed.
One drawback is that Albence worked under top ICE tyrant and egomaniac John Torres, ICE Director of Detention and Removal Operations. Torres is the incompetent, unqualified ICE official who has super-secret hiring committees for jobs for his unqualified extramarital girlfriends and wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money on a week-long ICE confab featuring immigration expert Tommy Lasorda (who was paid $30-$50K for his speech). If there is a human Darth Vader, he is it (only not as smart or articulate).
But we know that Torres’ ethics (or, rather, extreme lack thereof) did not rub off on Albence or the many who’ve had the unfortunate experience of working for ICE’s wicked version of George Costanza (Torres)–with all due apologies to Jason Alexander and Larry David.
We’re hoping that Albence’s youth and dedication to immigration enforcement will signal a change from the old guard of ICE politicos like Abu Moskowitz–more interested in enhancing their careers than protecting the country–to fresher blood (from both the former INS and Customs sides of ICE) and stronger immigration enforcement.
Only time will tell. Matt Albence, we wish you the best.
[We have many ICE agent friends who come from both the former INS and Customs agencies, parts of which became ICE. And we think both branches investigated important crimes. Hopefully, agents won't come down on us for appearing to "favor" one side or the other, as is often the case. We think the merger of these two very different agencies was asinine.]

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15 Responses

Let’s hope the administration will remove the cuffs and let ICE do its job. I just hope this isn’t window dressing.
How ’bout another clichÈ?†Let’s hope they’re not just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Thee_Bruno on August 9, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Ms. Schlussel:
Limiting my comments to this one post, taking sides is EXACTLY what you are doing, because immigration enforcement is important to you.
That’s fine. However, if you do any broader research in this area, you will find that many legacy Customs agents (like myself), are actively seeking retirement, transfers to other agencies or the exit door. Why? Because legacy Customs agents (which comprised some 60 percent of the new ICE investigative contingent), feel that they got a raw deal, with everything from top level leadership (e.g. Ridge, Chertoff, Garcia, etc.) to the loss of Customs investigative authorities, to budget crisis after budget crisis, to ad nauseum.
Don’t misunderstand me: I like a lot of what you say and it provides a good laugh here and there (especially the PhotoShop gigs). But, seriously, I (and many of my legacy Customs colleagues) are just not sure we want to be spending the next 10, 15 or 20 years dealing with a mission that, gauged by how Washington and the public at large is handling the immigration crisis, seems to be destined as a lost cause.
If I wanted to be an immigration officer, I would have joined INS; I didn’t – that’s why I joined Customs. Now, all that’s left is how to “get (myself) out of Dodge” while I’m still young enough (but not too jaded) to make a difference and be happy elsewhere.
P.S. Kudos to my friends in Minneapolis for arresting our absconding Egyptian student.
YOU MAKE A LOT OF GOOD POINTS, BUT I THINK PEOPLE NEED TO DEAL WITH THE HERE AND NOW. I WAS ALWAYS A HUGE CHEERLEADER FOR THE U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE. THE AGENCY DID FINE WORK AND PULLED IN MORE DRUGS THAN THE DEA, FBI, ATF COMBINED. I OPPOSED THE MERGER. IT WAS A MISTAKE AND SHOULD BE UNDONE. BUT, THAT SAID, IMMIGRATION IS ONE OF THE PRIMARY FUNCTIONS OF ICE, NOW. IT’S THE FIRST WORD IN THE TITLE. I KNOW MANY FINE CUSTOMS PEOPLE WHO ARE LEAVING OR WHO HAVE LEFT, AND THAT IS VERY SAD. AS FOR THE “LEADERSHIP” YOU MENTIONED–RIDGE, GARCIA, CHERTOFF, ETC.–NONE OF THESE WERE FROM THE INS (OR CUSTOMS). THEY WERE JUST BAD APPLES WITH NO EXPERIENCE FROM EITHER SIDE. GOOD LUCK TO YOU, AND I HOPE YOU END UP AT A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WHERE YOU CAN BE HAPPY. FROM WHAT I KNOW, NEITHER INS NOR CUSTOMS PEOPLE WHO CAME TO ICE LIKE IT. IT IS A LOSER ON ALL SIDES. STILL, IMMIGRATION IS IMPORTANT. AND WE CAN’T JUST DROP THE BALL ON IT.
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 9, 2006 at 4:48 pm

4EVER,
Nice post. I agree 100 percent. Albence should be considered qualified for the job based on his experience and quality of work as an agent, not which agency he came from.

ICEAGENT on August 9, 2006 at 8:28 pm

Dear ICEAGENT:
Thank you for your kind sentiments.
I’m sure that Mr. Albence is a very nice and competent individual (I am not being facetious here). However, he IS a legacy INS official, one of many who will begin to occupy senior managerial ranks within ICE as senior legacy Customs officials at DC, FLETC and the field retire. The problem is that, per my previous post, there is little incentive for legacy Customs agents to go to high-level field and HQ positions, because no legacy Customs manager wants the aggravation of the seemingly fruitless immigration mission.
Therefore, by default, as legacy INS managers take the helm, they will steer the agency in the direction thay know and are comfortable with: Immigration. Coming are the end of days when large narcotics, money and weapons seizures were the order of the day, with long-term investigations initiated that focus on disrupting and dismantling complex criminal enterprises in these areas (although there is much to be said about the separation of CBP and ICE contributing to this crisis).
And, knowing what might be said about disrupting and dismantling criminal enterprise associated with alien smuggling/illegal immigration, there is invariably a nexus with a border crossing. That means ICE would have to cooperate with CBP officers or the Border Patrol. Given recent fodder regarding how poorly sectarian components within DHS get together, I don’t think its a stretch to say that ICE is becoming ever increasingly frustrated in this area as well, since entities such as the Border Patrol have often prided themselves on conducting their own inquiries after a border violation has occurred.
So, where does this leave a lot of ICE agents? Sadly, my friend, often out of the loop, and often out of luck.
Good luck to you, sir; I wish you the very best.

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 10, 2006 at 11:46 am

” . . . If I wanted to be an immigration officer, I would have joined INS; I didn’t – that’s why I joined Customs. . . .”
You poor baby. Why don’t you get the hell out and stop wasting my tax dollars.

AynaydaPizaqvick on August 10, 2006 at 5:05 pm

Dear Aynayda:
Sadly, it often seems that, when faced with intelligent reasoning and logical arguments, thare are those who simply prefer to respond with personal derogatories (“You poor baby”…) and semi-profane (…”get the h#$! out”…) statements; if you note Ms. Schlussel’s reply to my first post, she seemed to be pretty well impressed by my remarks, and didn’t seem bothered by my wanting to leave the agency, if that’s how I truly felt.
With regards to “…get(ting) the h#$! out…”, I, my friend, have some 15 plus years of Federal service. Like, perhaps yourself, and many Federal employees, I have a family that depends on my salary to provide housing, food, clothing, benefits and, G-d willing, a retirement (there’s a lot vested there, friend). Therefore, it is not so easy to simply quit – my exit from ICE must be carefully planned, and other Federal 1811 positions may take 6 months to 2 years to obtain, given the application process, vetting, budget situation, etc.).
I am concerned about your perception about my “…wasting (your) tax dollars”. For the last 15 years, I have always given the legacy Customs Service AND ICE (despite my personal and professional dislike of the sucessor agency) the very best value for the government’s money. I served with distinction as a U.S. Customs Inspector, having served on the elite Contraband Enforcement Team in a major U.S. port and having managed (at a GS-11 grade, I might add), programs of national scope, etc.; as an ICE agent to date (in only 4 years), I managed some 50 cases, including some very politically sensitive ones that have made national press, but I won’t go into detail here. Also, I won’t go into detail about the many OUTSTANDING performance appraisals I received in the legacy Customs Service, amd the many awards and commendations I have received in ICE for my work. Even today, every day I go to work, DESPITE my desire to leave, I ALWAYS give 110% – I am a professional, and that is what I do and how I feel; I can’t and won’t speak for others.
In conclusion, I hope this answers your concerns. I wish you nothing but the best, personally and professionally, regardless of your feelings towards me.

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 10, 2006 at 5:34 pm

By evidence of you calling yourself “4EVERCUSTOMS;” telling Debbie she is taking sides because immigration is important to her; your whining explanation about how you and many other former customs agents didn’t sign up for this immigration thang and are looking to get out; and your poor-me explanation of why you can’t simply abandon your $100,000 a year job, it is clear to me you are very self-absorbed, and your focus is not on the job you’re being paid to do. This, not withstanding your glowing self-assessment of your previous customs work. To Debbie and me and millions of other taxpayers, immigration is important to us. We are terrified of who is in this country right now, and who may be trying to get in. We want to assume that our ICE agents are 110 percent behind the ICE primary mission of apprehending the most dangerous of aliens in this country. Otherwise, ICE agents such as yourself wouldn’t be in the position. Some things, such as stating publically you don’t like your job, are best kept to yourself. Al least let us have the illusion you attack your job with vigor.
BTW, kudos on your previous work. I bet your I-LOVE-ME wall is a sight to behold.
God Bless.

AynaydaPizaqvick on August 10, 2006 at 7:56 pm

You or someone commented to 4EVERCUSTOMS that “…YOU MENTIONED–RIDGE, GARCIA, CHERTOFF, ETC.–NONE OF THESE WERE FROM THE INS (OR CUSTOMS). This is not correct as Michael Garcia and his henchman Michael Dougherty were both former ins. In fact, Garcia was the head of ins at the time of the merger and was in that position for the last 8 – 9 months of ins existence (the organization was eliminated by the Homeland Security Act of 2003). The U.S. Customs Service service and former ins personnel were transferred to the new disfunctional ice and CBP. You have no idea how unsafe this move to disfunctional has made this nation!!

GrouchoMarx on August 10, 2006 at 9:14 pm

I agree with what you are saying Groucho. Merging them has been a disaster. However, I don’t think a person’s agency affiliation is a decent guage of what his or her performance will be. BTW, wasn’t Garcia only with INS a couple of months before the merger? Hardly enough time to let any stink soak in

AynaydaPizaqvick on August 10, 2006 at 9:29 pm

Dear Aynayda:
First of all, my “I Love Me” wall doesn’t exist; I work in an 8 by 8 cubicle, which is mostly filled with case files and other things I need to do my job.
Second, most sad and frightening, is your last comment about keeping my thoughts to myself and having an illusion of security. That is precisely the problem: Many in the Federal government are too willing to fiddle while Rome burns, praising the Emperor in his non-existent clothes. Is America really safer since 9/11? Judging by her posts, Ms. Schlussel doesn’t seem to think too highly of most of the work being done by the FBI and DHS in its anti- and counterterrorism endeavors. In fact, I think it’s pretty plain that she views most of what the FBI and DHS have done as a dismal failure, and I’m not convinced, by any stretch of the imagination, that the whole reorganization of the FBI and the 22 agencies that became DHS have had any significant impact on U.S. security (perhaps we can learn something from the Brits, New Scotland Yard being an entity I have tremendous respect for, having worked with them on numerous occasions) (NOTE: Ms. Schlussel, please correct me if I am mistaken in my general read of your posts over the last year or so).
Perhaps I may offer a different perspective, one that I have posted on other websites and that was recently eloquently summarized (independently, not on anything he heard from me) by the journalist Jim DeFede (formerly of the Miami Herald, now on Air America radio) (NOTE: Mr. DeFede is rarely someone whom I agree with, me tending towards the conservative right, but I did on this one, limited point): The 9/11 attacks killed 3,000 people and, to be sure, it was one of America’s darkest hours. However, how many young and innocent people are being murdered in the streets of America due to the scourge of illicit drugs trafficked transnationally? How many people are murdered by weapons that are snuck across the border by land, air and sea? How much money from the drug and weapons trade are laundered through our banking and business infrastructure? IS THIS NOT IT’S OWN FORM OF TERRORISM, WATCHING ENTIRE URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS DISINTIGRATE AND ITS CITIZENS COWER IN FEAR IN THEIR HOUSING PROJECTS AT NIGHT? CERTAINLY, THE SMUGGLERS ARE WELL AWARE THAT OUR ATTENTION IS NOT ON THEM AT THE MOMENT, AND THEY ARE TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF THAT. Trust me, the numbers are too staggering to discuss here, and are the direct result of relegating Customs work to boo-koo place while chasing after a lot of immigration leads that often turn up empty and meaningless. I would dare to wager that, given the amount of drugs, money and weapons I (and many of my colleagues, besides) seized over the years as a Customs Inspector and, subsequently, as an Customs/ICE Special Agent, I saved more lives in doing that work than I have saved doing the type of work I am doing now.
I realize that these are difficult things to hear and face, but I (and many other legacy Customs agents) are NOT going to sit by and tell everyone that things are great when they obviously are not. I don’t live in illusions, my friend: I have 15 years of border/street experience that has taught me that this is serious business, and I would be less than honest to you, the American public and, most of all, myself if I perpetuated an illusion that is misleading, yea, patently false.
When people, Congress and the Executive branch realize the crisis of confidence spawned by the creation of DHS and its component agencies, perhaps then we can make TRUE progess on creating a security structure that protects the fabric and integrity of all Americans and our way of life
Therefore, let me proffer a solution to the obvious problem: America should and must be prepared to again create separate investigative agencies for Customs (which deals with things) and Immigration (which deals with people). America should be committed to FULLY funding AND staffing BOTH agencies with the material and manpower resources needed for each entity to do their respective missions. America must insist that Inspectors and Criminal Investigators be re-merged as to better coordinate and execute enforcement priorities (the current structure is like having a police department’s patrol officers and detectives pursuing their own agendas in the same city). Finally, America must insist that DHS be placed on some par level with the FBI in combatting terrorism. No matter what anyone else tells you, the FBI acts like it’s “up there”, and everyone else is “down there” (I speak from experience on this). Aynayda, are you, and other Amricans, who, like myself who care about our country, willing to do this and ask the tough questions of our elected officals, or will you respond to this post with more derogatory remarks in the hope that I’ll just go away? The choice is yours.

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 10, 2006 at 10:04 pm

4EC, shouldn’t those case files be locked in a safe instead of sitting in your cubicle? I and Debbie Schlussel and many other Americans know all too well the situation in ICE with its lack of leadership and cohesiveness is putting the security of our country at risk. We know that most of the agents in ICE are good hardworking men and women, irrespective of whether they began at Customs or INS. Nonetheless, you are very replaceable. There are thousands of experienced law enforcement officers who would jump at the chance to do the work you find so unfulfilling. And you, as a former Customs inspector should know all too well that the CBP officers are kicking butt interdicting weapons and drugs. Their seizure stats are higher than ever. Sure, there are smuggling cases that may not be getting any attention because of the focus on violent aliens, but this country has finite resources. And you are exactly right with your comparison to splitting a police department into two separate agencies–patrol and investugations. It was a stupid thing to do. The DHS OIG has confirmed it was a stupid thing to do and has recommended merging back with CBP. But the administration says no. It’s been three years now. Get over it and get on with your career. Fretting and agonizing over your inability to work the kind of cases you like the best, especially in a public forum, is a waste of energy and futile. Your mission right now as an ICE agent is to go find the worst of the aliens out there and lock them up. I’ll say it again. Stop wishing things were different and focus on your job. If you don’t like that job, LEAVE!

AynaydaPizaqvick on August 10, 2006 at 10:37 pm

Dear Aynayda:
From each of your replies, it is apparent that we are going to permanently disagree on this issue.
However, I was reflecting last night on what you said about being frightened about who was in this country. Well, you know what, Aynayda?, It wasn’t me , other legacy Customs or other legacy INS agents that created this mess of some 12 million illegals in our midst, some of whom, you’re right, are VERY dangerous people – it was the inept law-making of a pandering Congress (e.g. endless amnesties, special prorams, lax non-immigrant visa requirements, etc.), fueled by the apathy of an indifferent American public.
Just ask any legacy INS agent, before the merger, what their life was like trying to enforce immigration law – right, Aynayda: there was little or NO enforcement for fear of offending a certain group or groups of people (or the powerful business interests in this country). And, do you think we’ve learned our lesson? Just look at the headines daily, and tell me and others if we are supposed to pick up 100 or 200 illegals (possibly violent), while 1000′s more stream across the border or overstay their visas. You would think we would have learned our lesson after 9/11; we now have reports that 11 Egyptians absconded their student visas for MSU (thank G-d 6 have been apprehended). However, where’s the control there? That’s what I’m frightened of, Aynayda: We NEVER seem to learn our lesson, and keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.
And now, because you and Ms. Schlussel (whom you seem to be very comfortable speaking for) are frightened of who is here, you state that 5,000 or so ICE agents (who do, actually, have to perform BOTH the immigration and customs enforcement missions) should go out and clean up the very nasty mess that Congress and an apathetic public (for the last 30 or so years prior to 9/11) propogated . Well, Aynayda, NO DICE !!! And if you think I, or any other legacy Customs OR INS official who is currently retiring, attempting to get a transfer or resigning is going to feel “bad” or “guilty” because of unreasoned and unsupported arguments put forth by yourself or others, you are very much mistaken. The only thing I seem to hear from you is “Do your job, Do your job”, like a mantric chant; what I DON’T hear from you are solutions on how to STAFF (really, what’s another 5,000 agents?), FUND (what’s a few billion dollars, comparing to what we’ve spent in IRAQ and Afghanistan?) and SHORE UP (i.e. craft and implement functional legal and logistical strategies, rather than Congress and the Executive branch trying to dance around yet another amnesty) enforcement on TWO (not just ONE), VERY CRITICAL FRONTS.

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 11, 2006 at 8:20 am

“Your mission right now as an ICE agent is to go find the worst of the aliens out there and lock them up.”
If only that were truly the case, I would have no problem working at ICE. Instead, 90% of my duty days are spent on the phone dealing with the public who want the local mexican guy deported for whatever reason.
I love the short sighted response “if you don’t like it leave!” Yeah good call, lets have the best and the brightest in ICE leave because they can see the problems within ICE. But it’s better not to fix them and just force everyone out that has a problem with it.
My problem is not in deporting illegal aliens or doing immigration work. MY PROBLEM IS IN THE QUALITY OF WORK WE ARE DOING. I am a SPECIAL AGENT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR BEING PAID TO DO CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS, NOT ADMINISTRATIVE DEPORTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m sorry but 213′s and 237′s don’t take much brainpower to do. Those tasks should be filled by clerks. Our job as ICE Special Agents should be busting high level alien/drug smuggling rings, human/drug trafficking, Cybercrime, money laundering, etc. Deporting Juan the janitor for being MIA (Mexican in Action) should be left up to Detention and Removal because its not INVESTIGATING.
I’ve seen some of the best and brightest young agents leave my SAC office the last 2-3 years. You think that’s going to make ICE a better place to work at?
It’s not just legacy Customs people that are fed up with ICE. I know people that are legacy INS that left the Office of Investigations to go to DRO. I know legacy Customs guys that left to go to FBI, DEA, Marshals, Postal, etc. People are fed up with : not having any money, not having any support, not having any guidance from management.

ICEAGENT on August 12, 2006 at 7:39 pm

Dear ICEAGENT:
Thanks for the support, which I guess is something that can only truly come from within when beseiged by a public that has very little, if any, inside knowledge of what is TRULY going on at ICE.
The problem is that, when frightened by the product of 30 or so years of a do-nothing, pandering Congress/Presidency and an apathetic public, the easy thing for most people to do is to lash out at those they would want to have clean up the mess. What they did NOT count on is the backlash by ICE agents who have been around enough to know better that the situation, in its current incarnation, is a dismal failure, and that no help is coming anytime soon.
Keep faith, friend; may G-d grant you whatever you want for yourself, your family and your career. Remember, as Bill O’Reilly says: “Who’s looking out for YOU?” If it’s not you, I don’t think anyone else is going to.

4EVERCUSTOMS on August 12, 2006 at 11:09 pm

Agreed my friend, stay safe!

ICEAGENT on August 13, 2006 at 5:41 pm

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