All Hail, Department of Homeland Security!

Like the Goddess Athena, the Department of Homeland Security springs full-grown from the head of Zeus today, Friday January 24, in full armor and ready for battle, all according to plan.

But when it comes to immigration law enforcement, chances are that the DHS will be little more effective than its predecessor – the troubled Immigration and Naturalization Service.  In fact, the DHS could be worse.

In the legislation signed by President Bush on November 25, 2002, the INS is the only agency that will be both abolished by name and split in two as part of being transferred to the new homeland security department.  May its name and memory be obliterated.

The pieces of the INS will be separated into "service" and "enforcement" branches.  The enforcement functions will reappear as the Border and Transportation Security division of the DHS.  All of the "service" functions, presumably the INS examinations division and the asylum officer corps, will be kept in a special compartment called the "Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services." The department officially inherits the pieces of the INS sometime before March 1.  What it's going to do with them is unclear.

Asa Hutchinson, the current head of the Drug Enforcement Administration has been picked to be Undersecretary for the immigration enforcement division.  Hutchinson will answer to Deputy DHS Secretary nominee Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy.  The buck will stop with DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.

A Director is yet to be named to run the immigration "service" branch.  This other director will be on the same level of the food chain as Hutchinson [click here for organization chart], and report separately to Hutchinson's future boss – Deputy Secretary England.  Is there a rivalry in the works?

The idea of a separate Immigration and Visa Services bureau is claimed to be "consistent with the President's long-standing position" to "separate immigration services from immigration law enforcement" in an "immigration services organization that would administer our immigration law in an efficient, fair, and humane manner." 

It's still a tall order. If the friendly "service" bureau strays too far from its alter-ego "enforcement" branch, immigration benefit fraud will spin even more out of control.

I've already noted that the General Accounting Office documented rampant immigration benefit fraud in the INS a year ago. 

If the former, supposedly-unified, INS didn't investigate fraud effectively, how will building a wall of separation between "service" and "enforcement" solve the problem?

If no one is around to arrest illegal and criminal aliens during the "service" process, aliens will continue fraud - filing multiple petitions under different names, multiple petitions under the same name in different locations, impersonating one another at will.

The DHS plan already labels "immigration and naturalization services" as Non-Homeland Security Functions.  So what's a little immigration fraud here and there? The DHS has bigger fish to fry - right?

The overall advertised mission of the DHS is to:

 

  • Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States,

 

  • Reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and

 

  • Minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters

 

Detaining and deporting illegal and criminal alien residents would be a great first step toward at least the first two goals.  Maybe the federal government could take Michelle Malkin's advice and finally use the DHS to stop the daily invasion of terrorists, criminals and other foreign menaces.

Abolishing the bureaucracy responsible for the deportation abyss of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and its Immigration Court system wouldn't be a bad idea either.

But these reforms probably aren't even on the administration's radar screen. The July 2002 Office of Homeland Security's report "The National Strategy For Homeland Security" tells the tale.

In the Border and Transportation Security section, page 33, we learn that "[t]he Department would enter into national law enforcement databases the names of high-risk aliens who remain in the United States longer than authorized and, when warranted, deport illegal aliens." [My italics]

This highly-conditional reference is the only mention of "deportation" in the entire report. 

But isn't deporting illegal aliens always "warranted"? 

For that matter, why not enter all illegal aliens into the "national law enforcement databases" the report discusses, not just the names of "high-risk aliens"?

And what about using state and local law enforcement officers to apprehend illegal aliens?

So far, the Bush Administration has not mentioned any immigration arrest authority or assistance in its plan for State, Local, and Private Sector Coordination in the new DHS.

Serious reform, of course, takes time. Fortunately, the GAO has made some serious immigration-related recommendations for the new department. For example, the GAO has reported that the INS "cannot locate many aliens because it lacks reliable address information." 

The GAO has also recommended in the context of "Border Security" that "the visa process should be strengthened as an antiterrorism tool," studied the implications of eliminating the visa waiver program, and reported on "the management challenges facing federal leadership in homeland security."  That should be some interesting reading for Messrs. Ridge, England and Hutchinson.

If these gentlemen do not set a course for reform, the DHS – like the INS – will be in the business of admitting aliens into the United States while pretending to be deporting them.

Will the DHS signal a new beginning for reform – or the further collapse of immigration law enforcement?

Unless someone up there is a big VDARE.COM fan, I predict the latter.

Juan Mann, a lawyer, is the proprietor of DeportAliens.com

January 23, 2003