INS Reorganization

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 What Was the INS?

INS stood for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS began in the late 1800’s and was known then as the Bureau of Immigration.

The Bureau of Immigration was created to monitor and control the flow of immigrants coming from Europe to the United States in the wake of the industrial revolution. The Bureau attempted to keep out certain types of individuals, such as “undesirables,” including mentally challenged individuals branded as “lunatics,” foreign laborers, and individuals who were suffering from contagious diseases.

During this time, it only cost 50 cents to enter into the United States. The Bureau was tasked with collecting this tax. The Bureau also investigated aliens who were living illegally in the United States and deported those individuals.

In 1913, the name of the Bureau was changed to the Immigration and Naturalization Service when it was transferred from the Treasury to the Justice Department. The law that created the INS was the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA).

During the war years, immigration was slow and the INS shrank and became a quieter organization. A new wave of immigration prompted the INS to increase its workforce in the 1950’s.

The number of immigrants who were legally entering the country as well as applying for visas increased during each decade. During this time, the INS offices and immigration services became busier processing cases.

The INS continued to work mostly uneventfully for many years until 2001. In 2001, the INS came under fire for permitting potential terrorists to enter into the United States.

In response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act created major changes to the INA in 2001. It was determined that the INS no longer meet the needs of a society that was under the threat of terrorism and political leaders felt it needed to be eliminated because of its perceived failures.

The INS was a United States agency which was dissolved in 2003. It was restructured into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS works with the Secretary of State to monitor immigration into the United States. The DHS also works to prevent terrorism within the borders of the country.

What Replaced the INS?

There are several changes which occurred following 2001. One of these changes included creating the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

SEVIS is a computerized system which keeps track of foreign students who are living in the United States. Other changes included the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act and the 2002 Homeland Security Act.

These two amendments mandated, for national security reasons, that several federal agencies be created, renamed, and reorganized, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The INS was dismantled and reorganized into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Three new agencies were organized within the DHS, including:

  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The former INS office administration and immigration services was absorbed by the USCIS. ICE, which was the main enforcement arm of the DHS, absorbed:

  • The Former United States Customs Investigators;
  • The Federal Protective Service; and
  • The Federal Air Marshal Service.

The CBP absorbed:

  • The former INS and Customs Inspectors;
  • The Department of Agriculture; and
  • The Border Patrol.

As a result of the restructuring of these agencies and organizations, the immigration agencies in the United States are currently more enforcement oriented. This means that they aim to increase the security of the United States while protecting its citizens from terrorism from within the country’s borders.

What if the ICE Detains Me?

ICE is seen as the enforcement arm of the DHS. It may also be considered the immigration police because it investigates crimes including:

  • Human trafficking;
  • Drug smuggling;
  • Gun smuggling;
  • Money laundering;
  • Passport fraud;
  • Child pornography;
  • Bomb threats; and
  • Other offenses.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has powers to detain individuals who are suspected of being:

ICE has the authority to arrest individuals who they suspect have broken immigration laws. ICE may detain a suspect for 48 hours without a warrant or longer under emergency circumstances.

Following the 48 hours, ICE must either release the individual or begin deportation procedures. ICE may release an individual who was detained on bond, with the bond being at least $1,500.

The bond amount can be challenged as excessive at a judicial hearing. The individual who is detained may challenge their detention by arguing that they are not, in fact, a terrorist, an illegal immigrant, a human trafficker, or any of the other groups ICE has the authority to deport.

It is important to note that legal complications may extend an individual’s detainment for a long time. After 6 months, however, a detained individual has the right to demand a court hearing.

In some cases, an individual who is detained by ICE cannot be returned to their country of origin. This may lead to indefinite detention.

In these cases, the Supreme Court has held that these individuals may demand a writ of habeas corpus following 6 months of detainment. This writ permits the detained individual to challenge the detainment in court.

What if the CBP Prevents Me from Entering the Country?

The CBP is responsible for admitting immigrants into the United States as well as maintaining a safe and secure border. CBP performs hands-on functions of immigration security.

This includes working at all points of entry and processing over a million individuals per day. CBP employees serve functions such as leading dogs through baggage to sniff out drugs.

The CBP agriculture specialists inspect various biological products in order to keep out harmful products from violating importation laws. CBP intellectual property specialists inspect items of trade, including handbags, to keep out imitators and rip-offs.

CBP employees also work to ensure import duties and fees are paid properly. One of their main goals is to identify high-risk individuals and products attempting to enter the country. This is accomplished through a variety of public and secret methods which depend upon the situation and the circumstances.

The CBP may prevent individuals from entering the United States for a number of reasons, including:

  • Crime, such as murder or terrorism;
  • Illegal immigration;
  • Carrying an infectious disease; and
  • Breaking the terms of a previous visa, which may include overstaying.

In the event that the CBP prevents an individual’s entry into the United States, the individual can petition the CBP or the DHS to review their case through the traveler redress system. If an individual is not an American citizen, they can also contact their nation’s embassy for assistance.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is important to have the assistance of an immigration attorney for any immigration issues, questions, or concerns you may have. It may be difficult for you to challenge the Department of Homeland Security or one of its sub-agencies.

This is because the DHS has resources available to fight any legal battle which is waged against them. Your attorney will review your case, advise you of your options, and ensure that your rights are protected. Your attorney will also represent you if you are required to appear in front of an agency or in court.


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