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The Senate Approves The Homeland Bill: What Now?

by Jose Latour

If you folks have watched any television since Tuesday, you no doubt have heard that the Senate resoundingly approved (with a 90-9 vote) a bill that would create a Department of Homeland Security, leading to a massive reorganization of the federal government. This courtesy of one Osama bin Laden, Public Enemy Number One.

According to what we're hearing in the press, President Bush expects to sign the bill early next week, when he will announce his choice to lead the department. Word has it that former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge is a front runner as his choice.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will, as we have previously discussed here, combine some 170,000 federal workers from 22 agencies, creating a previously unanticipated federal bureaucracy which, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. It also scared the hell out of Ted Kennedy, Daniel Inouye, Robert Bird, and a few other Senators who see the government's intervention in a variety of traditionally private sector issues as "weakening protections against unwarranted government intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans." (Statement by Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold.)

What does it mean for us? A lot. Customs and INS will both be integrated within the organization, and as a person who has lived the past 12 years struggling with today's comparatively tiny INS bureaucracy, I can only imagine what will happen when immigration responsibilities are effectively swallowed by a bureaucracy literally hundreds of times larger.

From the perspective of security, I am hopeful that this level of integration will indeed lead to the type of information-sharing that can potentially prevent much of the misinformation and chaos that has traditionally hindered our domestic and international efforts. For example, one would like to believe that the wholesale restructuring of our federal government could at least keep a future immigration service from issuing student visa renewals for dead terrorists.

But, in a bureaucracy as large as this new one, I expect such errors are probably more likely to happen, not less.

Hey, what can I say? You guys know me to be an eternal optimist, but this train's a-rollin'. Not much you and I can do to slow the momentum down at this point. I continue to feel glimmers of hope that the complaints I hear around me are the beginning of a quiet revolution, a revolution based on the "Outrage of the Reasonable Man." I believe that the Reasonable Man is pretty much starting to understand the dichotomy between a sound system for enhancing national security versus a comprehensive dismantling of the system of liberties that made this country great. At the same time, I severely question whether those in charge of the enforcement provisions as to homeland security - most notably our current Attorney General - are Reasonable Men.

As the momentum continues on this big train we can only hope that the reasonable men and women of America will continue to vigorously express their opinions through their elected representatives and through the newspapers and media of the United States before we continue to lose more of the precious rights we hold so dear.

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. The above represents Mr. Latour's Editorial opinion. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site,, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.