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The Office of Homeland Security is founded

July 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Office of Homeland Security is founded on this day in 2001, less than one month after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Now a cabinet department, Homeland Security is now one of the largest organs of the federal government, charged with preventing terror attacks, border security, immigrations and customs, disaster relief and prevention and other related tasks.

President George W. Bush announced the creation of a new office to “develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks” a mere ten days after September 11. On October 8, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge assumed his role as director and the office opened. Despite concerns about adding to the federal bureaucracy and dramatically re-organizing the security state, Congress officially voted to make the office a cabinet-level department in November of 2002. The Department of Homeland Security eventually absorbed no fewer than 22 agencies into its fold. Entities absorbed by DHS included the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection and even Coast Guard.

DHS has faced criticism for much of its brief history. Many condemned its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005—despite having been founded, in part, to coordinate a government-wide disaster response, DHS reportedly did not develop such a plan until two days after Katrina made landfall.

Since the election of Donald Trump, DHS’ border enforcement and immigration duties have come under scrutiny. In particular, many Americans are critical of one DHS office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was founded in 2003. In recent years, ICE has stepped up its raids on undocumented immigrant communities, leading to a rising number of deportations. ICE is responsible for detaining migrants at America’s southern border, where the conditions of its facilities and its practice of separating detained children from their families have led to widespread condemnation and the rise of an “Abolish ICE” movement.

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