Since Homeland Security has been a popular topic of conversation as of late, you’ve probably heard a lot about the agency. That being said, have you ever wondered what it’s really like inside?
Well, as a current intern with the Department of Homeland Security, I can provide you with a bit of insight.
To start off, I’d like to give you a quick crash course on Homeland Security since you might not know too much about the agency and what it actually does.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began operations on March 1, 2003, making it a fairly new agency. The formation of the department was proposed in 2002 by President George W. Bush after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The department was meant to unify multiple divisions that already existed within the federal government in an attempt to increase their overall efficacy (if you’re curious, here’s a list of the departments that were included: https://www.dhs.gov/who-joined-dhs).
22 different organizations ended up merging into DHS. To give you an idea of just how large that makes DHS, here’s a list of agencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the department:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- United States Coast Guard (USCG)
- United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)
- United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- United States Secret Service (USSS)
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Management Directorate
- Science and Technology Directorate
- Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office
- Office of Intelligence and Analysis
- Office of Operations Coordination
I’m currently interning with ICE. ICE is comprised of three main branches: Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), which deals with matters involving immigration law; the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), which deals with legal proceedings; and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is the investigative branch within ICE that deals with “cross-border criminal activity.” My internship is with HSI. HSI was created in 2010, seven years after ICE was first formed, and they employ special agents, analysts, auditors, and a variety of other support positions. Below is a list of crimes handled by the department:
- Financial crimes, money laundering and bulk cash smuggling;
- Commercial fraud and intellectual property theft;
- Cybercrimes (fun fact: sharing illegal online content is considered an international crime since, for all intents and purposes, the Internet is borderless);
- Human rights violations;
- Human smuggling and trafficking;
- Immigration, document and benefit fraud;
- Narcotics and weapons smuggling/trafficking;
- Transnational gang activity;
- Export enforcement; and,
- International art and antiquity theft
As you can see, HSI does quite a lot.
To better deal with these various crimes, HSI is divided into a number of divisions. Again, to show you just how large HSI is, here is the list of divisions and their descriptions given by the Homeland Security website:
- Domestic Operations oversees all investigative activities of HSI’s domestic field offices
- HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center conducts investigations related to intellectual property theft. It also combats trade practices that threaten the global economy
- International Operations oversees HSI attaché offices and builds relationships with foreign law enforcement partners
- Investigative Programs conducts operations in areas including cybercrime, financial and narcotics violations, transnational crime and public safety. It also supports law enforcement partners through training, technical assistance, computer forensic analysis and forensic services
- Mission Support provides budgetary and financial services to all of HSI. It also provides information technology, human capital and record management support
- National Security Investigations investigates vulnerabilities in the nation’s borders. It also works to prevents acts of terrorism
- Office of Intelligence conducts broad intelligence operations. It also develops data for use by ICE, the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement partners
- Operational Technology and Cyber Division (OTCD) oversees initiatives that combine information sharing and technology across the Department of Homeland Security. It also oversees technical and business-related activities carried out by HSI
Beyond this, HSI is then further divided into various units. One of the most interesting and, quite frankly, surprising ones I learned about was the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU). The CEIU, as the name suggests, deals with matters involving pedophilia and the exploitation of children. The people assigned to this unit deal with crimes involving child pornography, child sex tourism, and child sex trafficking, and they work in tandem with other agencies and organizations to save the children involved in these crimes and apprehend the criminals taking part in them.
It makes sense why crimes like this would fall to the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. But after all the immigration news of late, it’s easy to forget just how varied the matters that the department deals with are. And while this is hardly a comprehensive list of everything DHS does, I do hope I was able to provide some helpful information on the subject and that you leave with a more in-depth understanding of the Department of Homeland Security and the agency’s role in the government.
All the above information was taken from the Department of Homeland Security website: https://www.dhs.gov/