As part of the emergence of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of September 11, 2001, the missions and functions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service have been split, renamed, taken from the Department of Justice and placed into a very different organizational structure within the new department. (The Executive Office for Immigration Review—the immigration court system—remains within the Department of Justice.) Whereas before the INS held responsibility for both enforcing immigration laws and preventing illegal entries to the country, as well as facilitating legal immigration and the naturalization process, within the new organizational structure these functions are now divided among separate bureaus with different reporting lines (Figure 1). Beginning this spring, the office responsible for administering immigration and naturalization—the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS)—is now completely separate from those offices with primarily enforcement functions—the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE). The two enforcement bureaus have incorporated a number of federal law enforcement services previously located elsewhere in the government.
This is an immense, substantive reorganization, with many important details still undecided in spring 2003. For example, the placement of the INS attorneys who represent the government in immigration, asylum and deportation hearings has not yet been decided, nor has the placement of various databases from the former INS, including the “A” files—the mostly paper files established by the INS for individual cases under its purview. The placement of the international functions of INS has not yet been determined either. Reflecting the organizational flux, the budget structure and funding are also unsettled.
Since the number of federal employees in Alaska affected by these changes is relatively small, the reorganization will probably not present as many immediate communication and operational problems as in communities with larger immigrant populations. Nevertheless, under the new organization, there are now three acting directors handling the multiplicity of functions for the Alaska region. The bureaus report upward through offices in different locations.
Another aspect of the reorganization impossible to examine at this point is how data on operations will be maintained and remain accessible. In certain conditions, the work of the Department of Homeland Security will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the implications of this exemption for obtaining data by researchers, the media and the public are not yet known.
The information in the preceding article was obtained through interviews with the acting Alaska directors of BICE, BCBP, and BCIS; and from the website of the Department of Homeland Security in Spring 2003.