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How the Department of Homeland Security Was Created and What It Does

The Department of Homeland Security completely reshaped how the U.S. oversees its immigration enforcement agencies.


-> This article is part of Documented’s Glossary. We want to make it easier to understand the U.S. immigration system. If you want to know more about different visa types and immigration terms, please check our library here.

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In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., bipartisan members of Congress proposed a restructuring of the U.S.’s federal agencies to address issues of national security, with focus on reducing vulnerability to terrorism and serving act as a base for the U.S.’s natural and manmade disaster response. 

The measures were passed in The Homeland Security Act of 2002, which established the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS.

The Department of Homeland Security inherited approximately 200,000 federal employees from 22 federal agencies and began with a budget of $37 billion. It was the largest department created since the Department of Defense in 1947.

Prior to DHS, enforcement immigration laws were overseen by The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ). The Homeland Security Act dismantled INS and broke it into three agencies within DHS: Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Several other agencies related to border and customs inspections were also transferred to DHS.

Also read: What Sanctuary Policies Mean for Undocumented Immigrants

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