As a result of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ceased to be an agency of the Department of Justice, as it had been for more than six decades. Along with 21 other federal agencies, INS was reorganized and brought under the aegis of the newly-created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.
Immigration laws, both pre- and post-September 11, fall into two distinct categories. One category is enforcement. Enforcement includes border control and security, removal of illegal aliens, and investigation and enforcement of other immigration laws, such as document fraud, alien smuggling, and work authorization. The other category of immigration laws has to do with benefits, such as asylum,naturalization, and admission to the U.S.
When Ellis Island opened as an immigration processing center in New York Harbor in 1892, INS (then known as the Immigration Service) employed fewer than 200; by the beginning of the twenty-first century INS employed some 29,000. In fiscal year 2004, statistics showed:
- Legal immigration of 705,827 (down from 1,063,732 in 2002)
- 537,151 people were sworn in as U.S. citizens
- More than 1.2 million aliens were apprehended
- Nearly 203,000 aliens were formally removed from the U.S.; more than 1 million others agreed to voluntarily depart the country
- 88,897 criminal aliens were removed
- Nonimmigrant admissions amounted to nearly 31 million
- 32,682 applications for asylum were received; about one-third were granted
- Refugee arrivals totaled 52,835 (up from 28,306 in 2003)