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April 2003, Volume 9, Number 2

INS to DHS, Border

The Immigration and Naturalization Service went out of business on March 1, 2003. Its functions were moved to the Department of Homeland Security and divided in three parts: (1)Immigration enforcement was placed in the DHS Directorate for Border and Transportation Security (BTS) in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headed by Michael Garcia.

The (2) Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, headed by Eduardo Aguirre, will provide naturalization services and immigration benefits for non-citizens. President Bush requested a $41 billion budget for the 170,000-employee DHS in FY04, up from $38 billion; the federal budget for FY03 is $2.23 trillion.

The (3) Department of Justice retains authority over the Executive Office for Immigration Review (immigration judges). Just before INS moved out of the Department of Justice, plans to shorten tourist visas from the current six months to 30 days were dropped because of complaints from the tourism industry.

US businesses in 2003 began to complain openly that tighter visa-issuing policies were hurting business. More time is required for getting visas approved, and there are many uncertainties about whether a visa will be granted to a foreigner that a US business wants admitted. After arrival, if the foreigner plans to stay in the US for any length of time, he/she must obtain a Social Security or Tax-Reporting Number, and immigration officials must screen applicants for such numbers. During the wait, foreigners cannot obtain driver's licenses.

Beginning on March 1, 2003, the 500,000 persons a day arriving at US airports, seaports and land borders were screened for radiological materials in an effort to detect the smuggling of nuclear material that could be used to build a dirty bomb, that is, one in which radioactive materials are dispersed by conventional explosives. The US has 300 ports of entry, and the 18,000 border inspectors who staff them--9,000 customs agents, 6,000 immigration agents and 3,000 agriculture agents- are expected to be outfitted with personal radiation pagers by mid-2003. These agents, now all part of DHS, are to be cross-trained to do each other's jobs.

The federal government is linking databases, and making the information on foreigners stored there more widely available to state and local law enforcement agencies. For the first time, state and local law enforcement agencies will have access to the State Department's visa applicant database, which has information on 50 million overseas applications for US visas.

Border. Most of the 955,310 foreigners apprehended by the Border Patrol in FY02 were Mexicans caught just inside the US border in the southern Arizona desert. Many private groups, including Ranch Rescue and the American Border Patrol, have started to patrol desert areas to deter migrants attempting entry, often in large groups led by armed smugglers. In Tombstone, Arizona, a "Citizens Border Patrol Militia" was established.

The Mexican government has also begun to act. In March 2003, Mexican officials stopped two groups of 100 people from entering the US via the Arizona desert; the groups were being smuggled into the US by a Tijuana-based organization.

National parks, wildlife sanctuaries and Indian reservations occupy 36 percent of the 2,000-mile US border with Mexico. The US Department of the Interior is responsible for protecting the parks and visitors. An estimated 1,000 unauthorized migrants attempt to enter the US each day via the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The parents of a park ranger killed by smugglers in Organ Pipe said: "There is a political element in Washington that favors open borders to provide cheap labor and to avoid charges that they are racist .... They don't care that my kid was murdered."

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on a tour of the border in March 2003 said, "if you are truly going to control our border, then you've got to have a guest-worker program."

The US formally deported 106,837 Mexicans in FY02, down from 141,277 in FY01. Overall deportations declined 18 percent from FY01 to FY02.

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