An unspecified number of Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) agents will be given the ability to investigate drug crimes at the U.S. border, long the jurisdiction of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, according to a joint statement from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The agreement, the joint statement says, puts an end to turf wars between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in an effort "to protect the American people from violence and criminal activity along our borders." DHS and the DOJ are the parent organizations of ICE and the DEA, respectively.
"Giving ICE agents the authority to investigate drug trafficking cases, enhancing information sharing capabilities between ICE and the DEA, and ensuring full participation in intelligence centers will strengthen our efforts to combat international narcotics smuggling, streamline operations and bring better intelligence to our front line personnel," said the joint statement.
The agreement today specifically gives Title 21 authority, or the ability to investigate drug crimes, which rests with the DEA, to an unlimited and yet to be determined amount of ICE agents.
According to DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa, "ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton may select for cross-designation an unlimited number of ICE agents to tackle drug smuggling with a clear nexus to the border in coordination with DEA."
This agreement comes after a New York Times op-ed on Monday, in which a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official argued a turf war between ICE and the DEA had made it impossible for ICE agents to investigate drug crimes at the border because of the DEA's territoriality, thus harming national security.
According to Bradley C. Schreiber, who the Times described as a former senior adviser at DHS from 2007 to 2009, not giving ICE Title 21 authority at the border made no sense from a national security perspective.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and, under current law, its agents can investigate any crime with a connection to the American border, from weapons trafficking to child pornography. Any crime, that is, except drug crimes. The ability to investigate such crimes, known as Title 21 authority, rests with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is part of the Department of Justice.
The agreement today, said the joint statement, is evidence that the two departments have moved "past old disputes."
♦ Photo by borderhacker/Flickr