Homeland Security Dept. Proposal Moves Forward
By Deborah W. Meyers
Migration Policy Institute
August 1, 2002
Legislative Progress on Department of Homeland Security Proposal
With a vote
of 295-132, the House of Representatives passed legislation on July 26 (H.R.
5005) to create a Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Modeled on the legislation
approved by the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, the bill tracks
most of the features of President Bush's initial proposal. One of the few
major changes involves moving only the enforcement arm of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) to the new agency, rather than the entire INS, the
remainder of which would stay within the Department of Justice. Another change
was agreement to create an Office of Civil Rights within the department.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill (a new version of S.
2452) on July 25 that also is similar to the outlines of President George W. Bush's
proposal. Key differences between the two bills revolve around the
intelligence component of the new agency, the extent of civil service
protections for the agency's employees, and clarification of the Freedom of
Information Act's application to the agency. Moreover, the Senate bill would
move the entire INS into the new department and upgrade the INS's status to one
in which it would stand on top of its own directorate, headed by an
undersecretary of homeland security for immigration affairs, rather than buried
deeply within the Border and Transportation Security division headed by an
assistant secretary, as envisioned in the other proposals. The Directorate of
Immigration Affairs would incorporate the reforms of the INS envisioned by the
Immigration Reform, Accountability, and Security Enhancement Act of 2002,
proposed by Senators Kennedy and Brownback in May, as well as include an Office
of Children's Services and an Agency for Immigration Hearings and Appeals
(replacing the Executive Office of Immigration Review). The DHS would merge
parts of over twenty federal agencies, include more than 170,000 employees, and
boast a $37 billion budget. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of
the homeland security bill after returning from its summer recess, and many in
Congress are expecting the bill to be ready for the president's signature by
Local/Federal Law Enforcement Cooperation
In a controversial move, Florida
became the first state in the country to sign an agreement with the Justice
Department allowing state and local law enforcement officials to assist the INS
with enforcing immigration law. The agreement was described as being very
limited, involving only 35 state and local police and aimed only at cases
involving terrorism and national security. For additional information on this
issue, see the Policy Beat from July 2002.
Continuation of Secret Detentions
At least for now, the US government may
continue to keep secret the names of those detained after Sept. 11, following
the refusal of the New Jersey Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a state
appellate case. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had challenged the
June ruling of a New Jersey appeals court that the government could continue
secret detentions. That decision had overturned a lower court's ruling that
barred blanket closure of deportation hearings. The ACLU is deciding whether to
appeal to the US Supreme Court. According to news reports, more than 1,200
individuals were detained after Sept. 11, with approximately 70 remaining in
Senior Diplomat Asked to Resign
Following new allegations of visa fraud at a
US embassy overseas and lingering frustration among members of Congress
regarding the role of Consular Affairs in issuing visas to some of the Sept. 11
hijackers, Secretary of State Colin Powell asked for the resignation of Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan. Ms. Ryan, one of only
two career ambassadors (the highest foreign service officer rank), was also the
longest-serving diplomat in the State Department. Her departure, while
portrayed as standard for an individual who had been appointed in a previous
administration, was criticized by many career State Department employees and
others outside the government who felt she was being used as a scapegoat.
Under the Department of Homeland Security proposals, many of the policy and
regulatory functions of Consular Affairs would be transferred to the new
Extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The Justice Department has
extended TPS to Salvadorans for an additional year, arguing that El Salvador is
still recovering from the effects of destructive earthquakes and cannot yet
absorb returning immigrants. TPS allows those who qualify and register legal
permission to stay in the United States for a designated time period. Holders
of that status also are granted work authorization. Approximately 260,000
Salvadorans had signed up for the program after it was announced in March 2001.
Salvadoran migrants are estimated to send nearly $2 billion home each year,
making a significant contribution to El Salvador's economy.
The Justice Department had announced in May that TPS was being extended for
Hondurans and Nicaraguans for one year, with the re-registration deadline in
July. Over 100,000 Hondurans and 5,000 Nicaraguans had been registered for
TPS, though it appears that many Hondurans did not re-register.
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