WASHINGTON, DC— The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has released a report recommending that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) merge to enable the agencies to better protect our nation. The report was conducted at the request of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman, who asked the IG to look at whether merging the agencies would enable them operate more effectively.
Senators Collins and Lieberman have both expressed serious concern about ICE and CBP’s ability to carry out their homeland security missions under the current structure. In addition, the Committee examined this issue during a hearing earlier this year.
“This report presents a strong case that the status quo cannot be allowed to continue. The relationship between these agencies is clearly not working as well as it should, and may be undermining our efforts to strengthen our border security. These agencies are charged with the important and often challenging responsibility of enforcing our immigration and customs laws. This report verifies what so many law-enforcement officials, current and former employees of the agencies, and well respected outside groups have said– these two agencies are dysfunctional in their current structure,” said Senator Collins. She said that she has discussed this matter with DHS Secretary Chertoff and that he should be provided more time, as he requested, to make structural changes at those agencies. If significant changes are not made in a reasonable amount of time, however, Senator Collins said that her committee would consider legislation merging the agencies as part of a Homeland Security Authorization bill next year.
Senator Lieberman said, “The DHS Inspector General has exhaustively documented serious coordination problems as a result of the Administration’s splitting of border and enforcement functions, when it created CBP and ICE in 2003. The organizational difficulties have impeded the agencies’ investigations, intelligence sharing, and their efforts to apprehend, detain, and deport aliens. I intend to seriously consider the IG’s recommendation, and I urge Secretary Chertoff to do the same.”
Among the problems that the report identified are:
• A lack of effective coordination between the agencies that led to problems with apprehension, detention and removal efforts, which is placing a strain on detention and removal resources, and may be weakening the deterrent effect of CBP’s alien apprehension efforts.
• A decline of coordination and information sharing between the agencies with respect to their investigative efforts, which is leading to the development of redundant investigative capabilities at CBP that may adversely impact ICE investigations.
• Problems with coordination of intelligence gathering efforts, despite an overlapping need for intelligence regarding illegal aliens, criminal aliens, alien smuggling, drug trafficking, fraudulent travel documents, and import and export violations.
• Employees reporting a high degree of frustration with the current structure, and concerns about a growing antagonism between CBP and ICE employees, that may further undermine coordination and information sharing.