There are five government agencies that govern over immigration: the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security. Out of the five, the Department of Homeland Security is the most recent one. It was created soon after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Beginnings of Department of Homeland Security
In the wake of the horrific terrorist acts on the Twin Towers, the United States government decided that they had to tighten up the issuing of nonimmigrant visas because they discovered that most of the plane hijackers were traveling with legal U.S. documents. Others were reportedly in the country illegally, overstaying their visas. Because of this, immigration became a big topic of homeland security.
In June 2002, George W. Bush presented his proposal for the new DHS to Congress. The document states that the President had decided the nation needed a "more unified homeland security structure." At the time, 22 agencies coordinated the efforts this new department would encompass. These included agencies like U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Coast Guard and FEMA. The following bullet points were outlined in the President's proposal and served as arguments as to why a DHS would be a good idea.
- The new department would protect the American homeland.
- The new department would be in charge of securing U.S. borders, transportation sector, ports and critical infrastructure.
- The new department would combine and analyze homeland security intelligence gathered from various sources.
- The new department would enhance communications between state and local governments, private industry and the American people.
- The new department would protect the American people against weapons of mass destruction.
- The new department would be in charge of training first responders and would handle federal emergency response.
- The new department would have more security officers in the field and less resources in Washington.
The Homeland Security Act passed in Congress in November 2002. It became a Cabinet-level department. The duty of the Cabinet is to inform and guide the President.
Homeland Security and Immigration
Prior to the official creation of the DHS in March 2003, immigration was handled by the United States Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) within the Department of Justice. The INS stopped existing and three agencies within the DHS became responsible for INS duties:
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
The USCIS handles naturalization, asylum and permanent resident functions. There are 18,000 government employees. There are 250 offices across the world
- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
The ICE handles deportation, intelligence and investigatory functions. There are more than 20,000 employees. There are offices in all states of the U.S. and in 47 countries.
- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
The CBP handles border patrol duties.
Homeland Security Immigration Priorities
The DHS has set priorities for handling cases. Terrorism is the highest, national security the next highest, criminal the middle, and immigration the lowest priority. It is important to note that the department has received heavy criticism for increasing the number of deportations even though the cases of terrorist, national security and criminal threats from immigrants have decreased since 2001.
Decade Before vs. Decade After DHS:
|Decade before DHS
|Decade since DHS