WASHINGTON, DC – During the 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director’s Awards ceremony in Washington on December 11, ICE Assistant Field Office Director Jacob A. Antoninis received the Protecting the Homeland Award.
Mr. Antoninis works in the U.S. ICE New York Field Office and manages the office’s intelligence operations and field operations teams on Long Island that identify, locate, and arrest criminal aliens, such as members of gangs like MS-13. Prior to returning to New York in 2007, Antoninis was the ICE Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, where he worked closely with the Hellenic National Police, the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Hellenic Customs Service to combat criminal organizations whose operations affected both the U.S. and Greece.
He spoke with The National Herald about the honor, sharing the following statement:
“The Athens ICE Attaché office was created when the legacy U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office in Athens was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March of 2003.
“INS had established an office in Athens in 1958. The office had regional responsibilities and covered 17 countries: Greece, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. INS Athens was responsible for refugee processing, fraudulent document deterrence and training, adjudication of visa petitions and waivers, and investigations involving immigration fraud.
“In August 1998, I arrived in Athens as the INS Assistant Officer in Charge (AOIC), and in January 2002, I was promoted to OIC Athens. When DHS was created in 2003, the INS office in Athens was split in two. A couple of the Greek employees and American officers went to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and I and some others went to ICE.
“INS/ICE Athens worked closely with the Hellenic National Police (HNP) in the following areas:
1) To intercept U.S.-bound passengers at Athens Airports who were in possession of altered travel documents.
a. The skills of the police officers assigned to passport control at Athens Airport were impressive. Their intercept of two expertly counterfeited new, at the time, digitized photo U.S. passports was deemed significant enough by the INS Forensic Document Laboratory to issue an alert that was sent to all U.S. ports of entry.
b. ICE Athens provided training on detecting fraudulent documents and impostors to law enforcement officers and airline personnel. Over 500 Greek law enforcement officers from several agencies received this training in the months leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games. Whereas such training was provided regularly in Athens and Thessaloniki airports, for the first time the training was conducted in the airports at Heraklion, Kerkyra and Rhodes.
2) Conducted investigations of alien smuggling, human trafficking and document forgery rings with the goal of arresting and prosecuting their members. Several alien smuggling cases resulted in convictions in Greek courts because of information provided by ICE to the police.
“The Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) was another valued partner in efforts to stop the flow of both illegal aliens via sea from Turkey and elsewhere. In the months leading to the 2004 Olympic Games, the U.S. and several other countries provided various types of training to Greek law enforcement and security personnel.
A U.S. team that had come to Greece to access and possibly improve the capabilities of the HCG, reported that night patrols at sea are the most demanding and dangerous, and they said that of all the countries they had been to the HCG impressed them the most with their outstanding abilities during night operations.
“Interaction with Hellenic Customs began after the creation of ICE and accelerated in July 2004, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) established the Container Security Initiative (CSI) at the Seaport of Piraeus with the assistance and oversight of ICE Athens. A truck mounted non-intrusive imaging device was used to screen the contents of containers destined for the U.S. without having to open the containers, unless something suspicious was found by the device.
1) Greek Customs officers were also trained in the operation of the $1 million CBP-loaned non-intrusive imaging device, so that containers coming to Greece could be scanned by the Greek officers. The device enabled Greek Customs officers to intercept a container coming from another country that contained weapons and ammunition.
“The valuable contributions of members of the above services in U.S.-Greece efforts to combat trans national crime were recognized by the ICE Attaché office in ceremonies that took place at various times at the Ambassador’s residence, in the embassy, and in the American Consulate in Thessaloniki during which officers from the HNP, HCG, and HCS were presented with awards.”