WASHINGTON – Turf battles, jealousies and competition are keeping two immigration and border security agencies in the Homeland Security Department (search) from sharing intelligence and coordinating investigations, former agents said Wednesday.
Witnesses told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that the duties of immigration enforcement and border security should never have been split between Customs and Border Protection (search) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (search). Several recommended the agencies be combined.
"A wall has been truly erected between the people at CBP and the people at ICE. They have separate chains of command that, at this point, you can't have if you are trying to fight a war on terrorism and a war on drugs," said Michael Cutler, a former senior special agent with the defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Congress dismantled the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2001, complaining it was ineffective. The two agencies had been part of the INS.
When border inspectors and investigators were split between the agencies, "collaboration, coordination and teamwork immediately began to diminish," said Kenneth Klug, a former special agent in charge at a New York ICE office.
"It is vital to recognize that the two bureaus barely interact and when they do, they argue over budget, operations and jurisdiction," said David Venturella, former director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations at ICE.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., offered an example: CBP stopped a vehicle with contraband and notified the Drug Enforcement Administration, which then contacted ICE.
ICE has a $300 million deficit because money was transferred from the agency to CBP and another immigration agency in the department, said Randy Callahan, vice president of a union for Homeland Security employees. "The leadership of the former INS and Customs service are, as we speak, locked in a heated battle for control of the purse strings," he said.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Suzanne Luber declined to comment on the statements, and CBP referred calls to Luber. New Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff said in testimony last week that he plans a review of the department's organization, operation and polices.
Rep. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has asked the inspector general to look into the agencies
ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said: "ICE's accomplishments in two short years speak volumes about the quality of work being done here every single day. We are achieving record results."