Department Of Homeland Security And Immigration Services Essay

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On November 25, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law. This law transferred the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS’s) functions to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS then created three separate bureaus: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As of March 1, 2003, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service was dismantled, and its functions delegated to DHS.

USCIS is the immigration services branch of DHS. It processes applications for immigration benefits filed by immigrants filing affirmative applications for immigration benefits. These include family-based petitions, employment-based petitions, asylum and refugee processing, document issuance and renewal, and other special status programs. Immigrants come into contact with USCIS regularly. For example, those who have had family-based petitions filed on their behalf, or who are filing family-based petitions for others, route their paperwork through this branch. Those filing applications for lawful permanent residency and refugees and asylees have their paperwork processed by this branch. Most notably, immigrants who are or have been victims of violence send their applications (VAWA self-petitions, U-visa applications, and T-visa applications) to a specialized unit within the Vermont Service Center. This unit is staffed by adjudicators who have been trained on the different aspects of violence and how it operates in intimate and nonintimate relationships. Sending these sensitive types of applications to a well-trained group of adjudicators makes the immigration process more efficient, impartial, and safer for victims.

ICE is the enforcement and investigative branch of DHS. Among its duties are operating detention centers, putting immigrants into removal proceedings, investigating immigration crimes, and investigating human trafficking and smuggling. Immigrant victims can come into contact with ICE in a variety of ways. ICE officers regularly identify women who are trafficked for commercial sex or labor purposes through their investigations and sting operations. Sometimes ICE officers acting on “tips” from abusers will arrest undocumented immigrant women who are eligible for or have pending VAWA self-petitions and U-visa applications. To stop these practices, Section 384 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prohibits an adverse determination of an immigrant victim’s deportability from being made using information gathered solely from an abuser. Additionally, immigrants seeking asylum, or who have VAWA, U-visa, or T-visa immigration relief available to them, can be detained at U.S. ports of entry by ICE after they have passed through immigration inspection. Some of these victims are removed expeditiously, without any opportunity to plead their case before a judge, in a practice known as expedited removal.

CBP patrols and secures the U.S. land and ocean borders. Its articulated mission is to enforce all applicable U.S. laws and keep terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States while welcoming all legitimate travelers and trade. CBP officers are the immigration inspectors who examine the documents of visitors to the United States through a program called US-VISIT. For many immigrants seeking asylum or who have VAWA, U-visa, or T-visa immigration relief available to them, CBP is the first point of contact they have with the immigration system.


  1. S. Customs and Border Patrol. (n.d.). CBP: Securing America’s borders. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from
  2. S. Department of Homeland Security. (2007). DHS US-VISIT program. Retrieved from

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