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"We help keep violent gangs from taking over our streets."
Transnational Gangs

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognizes that transnational criminal street gangs represent a significant threat to public safety in communities throughout the United States.

The National Gang Unit (NGU) is a critical part of ICE’s mission to bring the fight to transnational criminal gangs. The NGU identifies and develops intelligence on gang membership, associations, activities and international movements. It also deters, disrupts gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from illicit activities.

In 2005, ICE initiated Operation Community Shield, an international law enforcement initiative that combines Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) expansive statutory and civil enforcement authorities to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs throughout the United States. With assistance from state, local, tribal and foreign law enforcement partners, the initiative helps HSI locate, investigate, prosecute, and where applicable, immediately remove gang members from our neighborhoods and ultimately from the United States.


HSI's NGU leverages its anti-gang initiative called Operation Community Shield to enhance U.S. public safety. The unit develops strategic domestic and foreign law enforcement partnerships and utilizes those partnerships, along with all of its unique legal authorities to target gangs, to suppress violence and prosecute criminal enterprises.

Gang Intelligence Gathering and Sharing

HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and has positioned itself as the leader in transnational criminal gang investigations. As such, HSI is committed to sharing gang intelligence gathered through investigations to aggressively pursue leads.

Operation Community Shield Overview

Operation Community Shield does the following:

  • Works with federal, state and local law enforcement partners, in the United States and abroad, to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to conducting criminal investigations and other law enforcement operations against gangs.
  • Identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements.
  • Deters, disrupts and dismantles gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
  • Seeks prosecution and/or removal of alien gang members from the United States.
  • Works closely with our attaché offices worldwide and foreign law enforcement counterparts in gathering intelligence, sharing information and conducting coordinated enforcement operations.
  • HSI special agents routinely investigate these crimes side-by-side with law enforcement partners in pursuit of racketeering influenced and corrupt organization (RICO), violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR) and Hobbs Act prosecutions in order to most effectively disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises.

Operation Community Shield Results

Since the launch of Operation Community Shield, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partners have arrested more than 32,200 gang members and associates, representing more than 2,400 different gangs and cliques.

These apprehensions include than 20,838 criminal arrests and 13,370 administrative immigration arrests. Of these, 451 arrests were of gang leaders, and 14,994 of the arrested suspects had violent criminal histories. Through this initiative, HSI has also seized more than 5,800 firearms.

ICE's unique dual federal authorities, both criminal and administrative, have made the agency a leader in criminal investigations targeting transnational street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs that pose a threat to the public safety and national security.

Moreover, these organizations are involved in many HSI purview violations including:

  1. Human Smuggling and Trafficking
  2. Narcotics Smuggling and Distribution
  3. Identity Theft and Benefit Fraud
  4. Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling
  5. Weapons Smuggling and Arms Trafficking
Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/15/2020