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To better secure US border with Mexico, DHS considers significant restructuring

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Department of Homeland Security is contemplating the most significant restructuring since it was created after the September 11th attacks, in order to better secure the border with Mexico. Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal wrote about it on Thursday, and he join us now from Washington.

    So, what's the stake here? I mean, the recent crisis, if you will, with a bunch of young migrants crossing the border, shed some light on the fact that there are at least two big agencies, the Custom and Border Protection folks and the Immigration and Custom Enforcement folks, all tackling this.

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    Right. And what speaks to is really two forces play here. One is immediate crisis of all the children crossing, and they are starting to see some improvements, some, some reductions in the numbers there.

    But there is the broader issue of what pretty much both sides agree is kind of a broken immigration system in this country, and the border is part of that. And so you have these two forces, both the long-term structural problems that people feel exist, and the short-term immediate problems of so many children crossing the border.

    And they are both pushing the Department of Homeland Security to consider some pretty significant changes in how they organize and how they police that border.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So how would it change?

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    Well, what they are talking about doing is creating a Southern command, essentially taking a military model of leadership and structure, and combining these two agencies operationally for a lot of law enforcement work.

    So that you essentially have a more streamlined chain of command and you have more coordination between these two groups of people, who both have a big part in this, but don't always work in the same room together.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So if you didn't merge the two agencies and had a chain of command, would you have two chains of command and essentially codify the turf battles?

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    Right. Well, that's the concern that if you — one of the concerns expressed by some of the folks I talked to is if you create this military style chain of command, you could end up with actually two reporting chains — two, two sets of bosses essentially, and how will that work.

    Now, the people that think this is a good idea say that "look, the military has shown you can do that, and do it effectively and efficiently." There is obviously some skepticism in some quarters; the one thing that people do say is that there — they have a manpower, this is a constant manpower challenge on the border.

    And this is one of the ways they are considering, one of the things they have on their drawing board, as they try and come up ways to address that manpower issue.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Are there significant inefficiencies now? Or the agencies aren't working together as best they could?

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    You know, there's been a disagreement about that. What this is really about is the notion of policing the border and going after sort of the large smuggling organizations, both human smuggling and drug smuggling.

    And the view some people believe that if you actually got these guys doing more joint operations together, like the military often does in its Southern command structure, that you will actually do bigger cases, get, get better results.

    You know, there are skeptics who say we are already doing this work, you know, moving the chairs around creating a new title doesn't necessarily fix, you know, the challenge as we have.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    This is on the drawing board phase now. How long before something like this could get implemented or proposed to Congress, work its way through?

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    You know, it's a tricky thing. They're talking to Congress in little bits and pieces about this. It sounds as if no one is gonna try and put anything forward before the election — I think that's just probably too difficult.

    And I think frankly people want to see what the election results are and if that points away towards some sort of, you know, agreement as to something you can do on border security. Politically, you know, the Republicans have been arguing for a while that you should do any major immigration reform without doing border security first.

    This could become a piece of that discussion, but I'd be surprised if that discussion happens before the election.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright, Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

  • DEVLIN BARRETT:

    Thank you.

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