The Department of Homeland Security's First Year: A Report Card on Immigration
This report examines the transfer of immigration functions from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to the newly established Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and offers an analysis of the Department’s progress in its first year of existence toward accomplishing the two purposes for which it was created: (1) to ensure that immigration regulation and control enhances national security; and (2) to improve the performance of both the service and enforcement sides of the immigration system by allocating their respective functions to separate units within DHS.
On the immigration service side, some progress is noted with regard to improved customer relations in local immigration offices. However, the report highlights the burgeoning backlog of pending immigration and naturalization cases as a serious concern, pointing out that post-9/11 security measures appear to be promoting an organizational culture that embraces caution and rejection of claims rather than the exercise of expertise and judgment. On the enforcement side, DHS has streamlined its immigration, customs, and agriculture functions under unified border and interior programs, implemented new technologies to track the entry and admission of non-citizens, and made substantial efforts to protect critical infrastructure sites, according to the report. While such policies may make Americans feel safer, the author questions whether they are truly capable of materially advancing the war against terrorism. Finally, the report’s overall assessment of DHS suggests a lack of policy and legal coordination across separate bureaus within the agency.
In spite of these challenges, the report maintains that the new programs undertaken by DHS hold the promise of bringing greater integrity to the immigration system, and concludes with a set of future recommendations for DHS, which include: substantially increasing resources for backlog reduction efforts, developing a realistic plan for expanding entry and exit controls, improving the accuracy of databases, and integrating databases through the use of technology.