US Extends Global Reach of Vast Homeland Security Force

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The Department of Homeland Security is increasingly going global, says the New York Times. An estimated 2,000 Homeland Security employees — from Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents to Transportation Security Administration officials — now are deployed to more than 70 countries around the world. Hundreds more are either at sea for weeks at a time aboard Coast Guard ships, or patrolling the skies in surveillance planes above the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The expansion has created tensions with some European countries who say that the United States is trying to export its immigration laws to their territory. But other allies agree with the US argument that its longer reach strengthens international security while preventing a terrorist attack, drug shipment, or human smuggling ring from reaching American soil.

“Many threats to the homeland begin overseas, and that’s where we need to be,” said James Nealon, the department’s assistant secretary for international engagement. The costs of the operations abroad have raised questions. One congressional report found that the cost of stationing an ICE agent overseas is about four times as expensive as a domestic post. And in September testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee, the National Treasury Employees Union raised concerns about plans to deploy additional customs officers abroad amid “critical staffing shortages at the nation’s ports of entry.” Lawmakers have asked Homeland Security officials to evaluate the costs and benefits of deploying thousands of employees overseas while the department is looking to hire 15,000 new ICE and border patrol agents in the U.S. as part of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

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