Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One Face at the Border. No, two!

It has never been clear to anyone why in the process of making the Department of Homeland Security, half of Customs was carved off into another agency. Previously, we had the U.S. Customs Service in the Department of Treasury. Customs had compliance folks, entry personnel, and investigative agents (known as "Special Agents"). When Customs moved to Homeland Security, it was merged together with Immigration and Naturalization folks and some Agriculture Inspectors. The stated goal was to produce "one face at the border." This required cross training Customs Inspectors for agriculture issues, Immigration inspectors for customs issues, etc. There is a certain undeniable logic in this.

But, the Special Agents (and their Immigration equivalents) were moved into a wholly different bureau called Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This has not worked all that smoothly. There is growing pressure in Washington to merge the agencies. That would make sense. Special Agents are there to help enforce the customs laws and regulations as well as to interdict narcotics and the instrumentalities of terrorism. Their job would appear to require constant contact with other customs and immigration professionals. They need to be coordinated and there is probably some redundancy in function and expense.

Right now seems to be an opportune time to do this. The Commissioner of Customs is, as of today, a private citizen. And, Julie Myers, the nominee to head up ICE has not been confirmed (and may not be). Maybe what is needed is a single person designated to run both agencies simultaneously with the stated goal of bringing them together by some date certain.

There is a good article about some of this here.

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