Written by attorney Thomas Esparza Jr.

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is a division of U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is a division of U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ERO is the primary enforcement arm within ICE for the identification, apprehension, and removal of illegal aliens from the United States. The resources and expertise of ERO are used to identify and apprehend fugitive aliens and convicted criminal aliens, to manage them while in custody, to facilitate their processing through immigration courts, and to enforce orders of removal from the United States. ERO is committed to enforcing our nation's immigration laws in a fair, effective, and professional manner.

ERO works to achieve its role within ICE by identifying and removing all high-risk illegal alien fugitives and absconders; ensuring that those aliens who have already been identified as criminals are expeditiously removed; and maintaining a robust program with the capacity to remove final order cases.

Generally, the Immigration and Nationality Act grants aliens the right to a removal proceeding before an immigration judge to decide both inadmissibility and deportability. Aliens can be removed for a variety of reasons related to health, criminal status, economic well-being, national security risks, and other reasons of public concern that are specifically defined in the Act.

Immigration judges that work within the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, weigh evidence presented by both the alien and ICE, assess the facts, and render decisions regarding removal. Such decisions can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

If the immigration judge issues a decision ordering the alien removed from the United States, ERO is responsible to enforce the removal order. The process includes coordination and liaison with foreign government officials and embassies to obtain travel documents and country clearances, coordinating complex logistical and transportation issues to return the alien and, if required, providing escort by ERO officers with the alien to his or her foreign country.

Fugitive Operations

The removal of criminal aliens from the United States is a national priority. To address this priority, ERO designed the National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP). Its mission is to identify, apprehend, and remove from the United States aliens who have failed to surrender for removal or to comply with a removal order. NFOP teams work exclusively on fugitive cases, giving priority to the public safety concerns of criminal alien cases.

The "Absconder Apprehension Initiative" uses the data available from National Crime Information Center databases as a virtual force multiplier. As part of the Alien Absconder Initiative, ERO developed and coordinated the "ICE Most Wanted" program. This program publicizes the names, faces, and other identifying features of the 10 most wanted fugitive criminals by ICE. If you have comments or questions about the Most Wanted list, the Absconder Apprehension Initiative or the National Fugitive Operations Program, please contact us at:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Enforcement and Removal Operations - Fugitive Operations 500 - 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20536


Non-U.S. citizens who are apprehended and determined to need custodial supervision are placed in detention facilities. Those who are released from secure custody constitute ERO's "nondetained" docket. Every case, whether "detained" or "nondetained," remains part of ERO's caseload and is actively managed until and unless it is formally closed. ERO processes and monitors detained and nondetained cases as they move through immigration court proceedings to conclusion. At that point, ERO executes the judge's order.

Healthcare for detainees is managed by the Division of Immigration Health Services, one of seven divisions within ERO. The Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS) provides direct care or arranges for outside health care services to detained aliens in ICE custody. DIHS also serves as the medical authority for ICE. DIHS consists of U.S. Public Health Service officers and contract medical professionals who work under their supervision. DIHS provides the primary health care for detainees housed in DIHS-staffed detention centers and oversees the financial authorization and payment for off-site specialty and emergency care for detainees in ICE custody.

ERO has developed policy and procedures regarding the appropriate handling of unaccompanied alien juveniles taken into Federal custody as a result of their unlawful immigration status. DHS' juvenile guidelines address the responsibilities related to unaccompanied alien juveniles who enter the United States illegally, violate their legal status, or commit a deportable crime. As part of the restructuring of INS, the responsibilities related to the care and custody of unaccompanied alien juveniles has been transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Division of Unaccompanied Children Services.

Detainees in ICE custody who do not pose a threat to public safety and national security may be eligible to obtain release on bond while they await their removal proceedings. The immigration bond process is overseen by ERO's Bond Management Unit (BMU). Use the following link to download a copy of Immigration Bond Form I-352 (ICE Forms page).

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