Formed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, this well-funded cabinet department of the federal government has exemplified a governmental response to improve the coordination and effectiveness of efforts to combat the ongoing war against terrorism. It has greatly increased the number of illegal immigrants apprehended each year in the United States.
On March 1, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was founded to address concerns with terrorism that were greatly heightened after the
The DHS subdivision with primary responsibilities for administrative functions and decisions that affect the immigrant population is the
ICE cooperates with corresponding agencies in many foreign countries, helped by more than fifty branch offices around the world. It has five main organizational divisions:
•Office of Detention and Removal Operations
•Office of Investigations
•Office of Federal Protective Service
•Office on Intelligence and the Office of International Affairs
•forensic document laboratory
The forensic document laboratory is an important subdivision established in 1978 but now run by
The DHS is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the
The actual activities of ICE have been quite varied. The number of illegal immigrants who have been deported
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speaking at a press conference held at the Port of Miami in May, 2009. Behind her are representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Immigration and Customs.
ICE runs an extensive immigration detention custody system with 370 facilities either owned by the DHS or, more commonly, operating under service contracts with the DHS. This system has a 32,000-bed capacity, and a detention standards unit monitors compliance with national regulations originally promulgated in 2000 by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Spurred on by the
Much of the early twenty-first century controversy swirling around DHS handling of immigration affairs can be seen as a reflection of what some have noted to be a general orientation of “hyper vigilance” in confronting terrorism. This refers to a governmental policy of pursuing even the smallest indications of possible threats to national security, even though the vast majority of such interventions ultimately turn out to be false positives. The “one-percent doctrine” states that even a probability of another 9/11-type attack as small as 1 percent merits full preventive response measures, often at great public expense. Some have noted that this approach is reflective of a general sense of moral panic, especially following
The implications of such a perspective for immigration policy and practice are profound. The tactics of the DHS have been criticized as relying unfairly on the immigration status and countries of origin of immigrants. For example, immigration raids carried out in airports and utility company plants deemed to be of “high risk” for terrorist acts have often focused in a blanket way on workers of specific ethnicities, without regard to their individual likelihoods of actual guilt. In some airports, groups of Hispanic support personnel have been arrested on the grounds that their undocumented immigration status makes them more liable to terrorist recruitment and coercion.
Approval rates for applications from
The decreasing approval rates are coupled with a decrease in application rates, and both can be traced to tough, seemingly blanket-type approaches to detention decisions. During various periods between 2003 and 2008, all applicants from thirty-three countries that had an
These applications of “guilt by association”-type processing have raised the controversial specter of
In one Rhode Island detention center formerly under contract to the DHS, for example, it was alleged in a federal lawsuit that a thirty-four-year-old Chinese computer engineer with no prior criminal record was denied medical care for what ultimately turn out to be a fatal liver cancer illness. During the period of his detention, he was taken screaming in pain to Connecticut for a mandatory meeting with
In large measure, the persistence of immigrant detention wings of local jails and even entire facilities occupied by immigrants reflects a financial incentive. Even in an extremely difficult economic climate, the DHS budget for detainees in the New England region alone increased by ten million dollars between 2006 and 2008, and the national budget in 2008 was $1.7 billion. It has been estimated that financially strapped local corrections facilities can receive more than ninety dollars per day for each immigrant detainee. This translates into a lucrative source of inmates to fill all available empty beds, while injecting much needed capital into the sagging economies of most of the communities housing jails and prisons. The facilities themselves have been able to use the added revenue to undertake major renovations and expansions that would never have been possible if public funding were their sole income stream. The overall detention issue is exacerbated by open-ended periods of confinement for most detainees. Unlike their indigent criminal counterparts, they are not entitled to public counsel representation at the hearings themselves.
Despite all inherent operational difficulties and strong political pressures influencing long-range agency policy and goals, the DHS activities in the area of immigration law enforcement have been largely successful. In terms of apprehending fugitives from
Clearly, there is strong potential for the DHS to build on its past track record of successful enforcement, while directly addressing the internal and external controversies that have accompanied its development and growth.
Ackleson, Jason. “Constructing Security on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Political Geography 24 (2005): 165-184. Scholarly, theoretically based analysis of the evolution of U.S. policy regarding border security with Mexico. Bullock, Jane, and George Haddow. Introduction to Homeland Security. 2d ed. Burlington, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006. Introductory text offering a comprehensive overview of the Department of Homeland Security that explains the department’s various agencies and their responsibilities. Kerwin, Donald. “The Use and Misuse of ’National Security’ Rationale in Crafting U.S. Refugee and Immigration Policies.” International Journal of Refugee Law 17, no. 4 (2005): 749-763. Insightful due process-oriented analysis of U.S. immigration policies, as affected by changed priorities after the September 11 attacks. Kettl, Donald F. System Under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2004. Excellent introductory reading for those seeking to place post-9/11 changes in immigration policy into the broader context of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Lehrer, Eli. “The Homeland Security Bureaucracy.” The Public Interest (Summer, 2004): 71-85. Detailed survey of DHS organizational components and capacities. McEntire, David A. Introduction to Homeland Security: Understanding Terrorism with an Emergency Management Perspective. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Extensive survey of all aspects of Department of Homeland Security tasks. Smith, Michael W. “Denial of Asylum: Is There Organizational Justice Under the Department of Homeland Security?” International Journal of the Diversity 6, no. 3 (2006): 61-69. Data-oriented analysis of asylum denial rate elevations during the past decade. Ting, Jan C. “Immigration and National Security.” Orbis (Winter, 2006): 41-52. Details national policies that have facilitated the increase in illegal immigrants in the United States, as well as the relationship of this phenomenon to the terrorist threat. Uehling, Greta Lynn. “The International Smuggling of Children: Coyotes, Snakeheads, and the Politics of Compassion.” Anthropological Quarterly 81, no. 4 (2008): 833-871. Case study and interview-based analysis of the problem of unaccompanied, illegal immigrant children in the United States. White, Richard, and Kevin Collins. The United States Department of Homeland Security: An Overview. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005. Scholarly but nonetheless accessible examination of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, providing details about the department’s various agencies and the role of the Border Patrol in combating terrorism.
Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001
Border Patrol, U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S.
Coast Guard, U.S.
Disaster recovery work
9/11 and U.S. immigration policy
Patriot Act of 2001
Smuggling of immigrants