Homeland security will mean local changes

Published on Thu, Dec 5, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Homeland security will mean local changes

By Meg Olson

When President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law last Monday it spelled big changes for local borders.

The bill creates a new Department of Homeland Security, under which everyone who works at the border will be under one administrative wing, rather than split between half a dozen departments.

According to Garrison Courtney, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) public affairs officer, this will mean slow but significant changes at Whatcom County ports of entry. “You won’t see change overnight,” he said. “The transition team will figure out how and slowly realign the district. First they’ll realign management and it will trickle down to the field.” He said the new department would become a reality March 1, 2003 but that it will take three to four years for all changes to come into effect.

The INS will see the biggest changes, split into two independent divisions, a Bureau of Border Security and a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration. However, Courtney said all border agencies would become more tightly coordinated. “There will be a universal inspector in the booth,” he said. “It won’t say INS or Customs on a shirt, it will say Department of Homeland Security. People will be cross trained and there will be specialists inside.”
Agriculture, firearms, alcohol and tobacco, drug enforcement and revenue inspections functions would come under the new department. The revenue functions of Customs, such as assessing and collecting duty on imported goods, would stay with the Department of the Treasury, but all inspection functions would go to the new department.

Other agencies that will wind up in the new department under border security include the Coast Guard, the national domestic preparedness branches of the FBI, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the secret service. The rest of the FBI and the CIA would not be in the new department. Other transportation security functions such as the newly created Transportation Safety Administration, and intelligence research would also fall into the new department.

Courtney said there was hope that having everyone in the same department would eliminate competition between agencies for qualified personnel and would mean vacant positions at the border would be filled more quickly. “We think we’ll see more people up there,” he said.

“Currently there are differences for an inspector in Customs or INS. This makes everybody play fair because they’re in the same agency.” .

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