Part of Securing U.S. Democracy Initiative

Enhancing DHS Oversight & Accountability

Created in 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a sprawling agency of more than 240,000 employees with a wide array of responsibilities ranging from counterterrorism to physical security to cybersecurity to emergency response. Of heightened current interest are DHS’s responsibilities concerning border security, immigration and law enforcement. As the implementation of these critical functions has grown in complexity, the oversight and accountability mechanisms for these specific DHS activities by the executive and legislative branches have struggled to keep pace.

To address these challenges, CNAS is launching a task force to review and provide guidance for the development of recommendations concerning three main aspects of DHS functions. First, the task force will review DHS legal authorities, policies and procedures governing the agency’s increasingly complex border security, and combined immigration, investigative and law enforcement functions. The project’s work will focus on investigative standards, oversight mechanisms and civil liberties and privacy protections. Second, recognizing the imperative of crafting border security laws and policies that include foreign policy considerations, the project will consider the national security and foreign policy implications of existing and proposed border security and immigration policies. Third, the project will provide recommendations for enhancing congressional oversight of these areas.

“The debate surrounding border security and immigration policy has become too politicized,” said the project’s lead, Carrie Cordero, Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at CNAS. “This initiative will develop pragmatic policy recommendations to improve confidence that DHS is implementing its border security, immigration and law enforcement functions that meet our security needs in a manner consistent with U.S. legal requirements, civil liberties protections and American values.”

The task force’s work will also be informed by scholarly research currently underway on the legal issues surrounding the implementation of family separation as a component of immigration enforcement.

“CNAS projects like this aren’t constrained by party lines or a desire to maintain the status quo,” said Ely Ratner, CNAS Executive Vice President and Director of Studies. “This task force’s objective is to ask the hardest questions and develop realistic, actionable solutions for policymakers.”

Image credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre

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