ICE’s new online detainee system
Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that wants attention more for its complex customs and terrorism investigations than its immigration duties, has gone on a media blitz as of late.

ICE chief John Morton has popped up all over the place, from making public appearances around the country — including co-headlining a press conference Tuesday in San Francisco on a counterfeit clothing bust — to writing a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece with Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin to sitting for a Washington Post interview amid calls for his resignation to announcing in June a big drug bust with cohorts at the FBI, DEA and Justice Department.

(non-subscribers can find the WSJ op-ed here on the Homeland Security Department’s social networking site,

Along with increasing Morton’s visibility, the agency has also tried to raise its profile in other ways, with an organizational shake-up and a steady flow of press releases on everything from child pornography busts to its efforts to crackdown on human rights violators seeking safe haven in the United States.

Under the Obama administration ICE officials have stated that one of their priorities is to reform how the agency detains immigrants. In late July, the agency unveiled a new online system to find detained immigrants after previous reports of detainees moved around the country.

Last week the agency posted on its web site a month-by-month report of deportations. ICE has also tweaked its site, with prominent displays of the statistics, the new detainee finder system and its list of reforms. The agency, however, might take another look at some of these displays, immigration advocates say.

Notice the image of the tandem searching for someone — a friend, a sibling, a parent or a spouse — on the computer. Who are they? Mother and daughter? Aunt and niece? Tutor and pupil? Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group that advocates for reform, wondered what the two are doing: Searching for a relative, or solving a homework problem?

“ICE has separated more families than any other federal agency by far, and a stock photo on a web site is a cruel joke rather than an image enhancer,” Sharry said. “It just shows how tone deaf they are.”

ICE replaced the image for the online detainee locator system on Wednesday. The image of a computer keyboard, below left, replaced the original image, below right.

ICE’s new online detainee system (revised)
Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
ICE’s new online detainee system (original)
Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Then, depending on your web browser, under “ICE Detention and Policy Reform,” is a section on detainee safety.

The text doesn’t appear in Internet Explorer or Safari, but it’s right there in Firefox:

Detainee Care and Safety
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

The jumbled Latin phrase is, of course, often used as placeholder text.

The placeholder text was removed as of Wednesday morning.

An ICE spokesman said the agency would review the web site.

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Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.