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The Homeland Security Act of 2002 passed into law under president George Bush a year after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2021. Its purpose was to restructure U.S. federal agencies to address issues of national security, act as a base of the U.S.’s natural and manmade disaster response, as well as reduce the vulnerability of the country to threats of terrorism.
It created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which inherited approximately 22 federal agencies and became the largest department created since the Department of Defense in 1947.
It transferred immigration responsibilities from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and two smaller agencies to the newly founded department. The job of enforcing immigration law was given to the newly formed agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration policy became centralized under one agency, and wider immigration powers were given to the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security.
Prior to the creation of DHS, the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Department of Justice Agency INS administered law and policy on issues of immigrants. The 2002 act centralized these services and gave the executive branch more oversight capacity over who enters and leaves the country.
The act also lists investigating the connection between drug trafficking and terrorism as part of the agency’s responsibility.