The President's proposal came at the heels of passage by the House of Representatives of the Barbara Jordan Immigration Reform and Accountability Act of 2002. That bill, which passed the House by an overwhelming margin of 405-9, would restructure the INS by creating two separate agencies. The Senate, too, has legislation pending to revamp the INS.
Proposals to restructure the INS have been floating throughout Washington for many years without success. However, in the post-September 11 climate, the passage of legislation by this Congress to restructure the INS was almost assured. Now, in light of the President's proposal and the current political tones in Washington, it appears that the starting point for any restructuring of the INS would have to be within the framework of the new department. Therefore, legislative plans still on the table would most likely have to fit within the scheme of the proposed department.
THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND DEFENSE
As we recently observed in Migration World, "immigration enforcement has become a principal component of the war against terrorism." Thus, it is not surprising that the President's proposal would transfer the functions of the INS to the Department of Homeland Defense.
The proposal would merge dozens of agencies, including the INS, creating a staff of more than 160,000 workers in the new department. Under the President's proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would be organized into four divisions: Border and Transportation Security; Emergency Preparedness and Response; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures; and Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.
The new department would be charged with securing our nation's air, land, and sea borders. The INS functions would be transferred to the Division for Border and Transportation Security. According to an organizational chart proposed by the White House, this division would further be divided into Border Security, Transportation Security, Coast Guard, and Immigration Services. The Border Security section would combine the U.S. Border Patrol, Customs, and other agencies involved in border controls. The Immigration and Visa Services would include the INS, minus the Border Patrol, and would be further separated into immigration services and enforcement. According to the White House, the new department "would assume the legal authority to issue visas for foreign nationals and admit them into the country. The State Department would continue to administer the visa application and issuance process."
However, the bill submitted to Congress uses very broad language and does not include many specifics as to the division's actual organization. For example, Section 401 of the proposed bill would relegate responsibility for border and transportation security to the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, whose responsibilities would include:
* preventing the entry of terrorists and the instruments of terrorism into the United States;
* securing the borders, territorial waters, ports, terminals, waterways, and air, land, and sea transportation systems of the United States, including managing and coordinating...