President Bush recently proposed a massive restructuring and overhaul of the U.S. government. This proposal would reorganize many current government agencies, specifically those domestically focused, and place them under one new federal department called the “Department of Homeland Security”. President Bush is hoping to create the Department by January, 2003 by pushing Congress to pass this proposal quickly.
The Department of Homeland Security will be responsible for securing the nation’s borders. From airport security to intelligence information to the issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas, this new department will incorporate all aspects of homeland security. Twenty-two separate agencies would be rolled together under one umbrella in hopes of better coordinating information sharing and fixing many problems associated with some of these agencies. This new department would consist of 169,000 current employees and have a budget of $37.4 billion from existing agencies.
There would be four main divisions;
~ One focusing on the security of the borders and of all transportation;
~ another working with state and local authorities to prepare and respond to large-scale emergencies;
~ another for developing technologies and countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons;
~ another division combining intelligence agencies to analyze and share information.
For months, President Bush and Congress have been trying to divide the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and this new proposal is consistent with the ideology of separating the services and enforcement functions of the INS.
The INS would be combined with Customs, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and a portion of the Agriculture Department to create the division focused on monitoring and securing the borders.
The new Department would create an immigration services side that would continue to oversee the immigrant and non-immigrant visa issuance process. In addition, the State Department would maintain its involvement with visa issuance through the embassies and consulates overseas.
Current projects such as the creation of a state-of-the-art electronic visa system and an automated entry-exit system for non-immigrant visas will still be incorporated in the new Department’s mission.
Good news is that there have been no indications that the visa issuance process will be affected by this proposed government restructure.