SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke told a roomful of Border Patrol agents and national law enforcement officers Wednesday that the department will no longer "segregate" interior immigration enforcement and border security.
"We used to distinguish between border security and interior enforcement. Now we’re lumping it all under border security," Duke told hundreds of Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, and related sub-DHS agencies at the Border Security Expo. "We don’t believe we can segregate and say we’re going to look at the physical border, even at the border, ports of entry, between ports of entry, and then the interior piece. That’s all part of the system."
The shift is a sign that DHS will be looking to use any border security funding it gets in the evolving immigration deal to boost interior enforcement. Duke said if DHS got the $25 billion increase for border security, it would go toward "building capacity in all those areas," in addition to building the border wall.
Duke said she envisions using those funds to close loopholes between border and interior agencies.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement has long handled immigration matters inside the U.S., while Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations, and the Office of Field Operations have focused on interactions at ports and boundary lines.
"And we ... kind of combined ICE’s interior enforcement and CBP's border security. That’s a system because persons who are seeking to do harm to the United States bring in drugs or enter illegally know every vulnerability we have. And if the vulnerability is an interior enforcement thing like an unaccompanied child or a family, they will know that. And so we don’t believe we can segregate and say we’re going to look at the physical border," she added.