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Opinion Rep. Norma Torres: End the Department of Homeland Security

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of homeland security, on Capitol Hill on Aug. 6.
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of homeland security, on Capitol Hill on Aug. 6. (Toni Sandys/The Washington Post/POOL)
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There has been much discussion of the myriad reasons our next president should shutter the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and shift its essential functions to other departments across the federal government.  

There is no shortage of examples of DHS betraying our values and failing its mandate, whether that be caged children along our southern border, armor-clad agents confronting peaceful protests or innocent Americans snatched right off the streets of Portland, Ore., by officers who failed their basic duty to identify themselves. DHS is forever linked to these abuses, and its credibility is further undermined by the fact that the man serving as acting secretary may be doing so illegally.

DHS was created after 9/11 by uniting 22 agencies from across eight federal departments under one new Homeland Security umbrella. It was a disjointed Frankenstein creation from the start, for instance, combining immigration policy enforcement with natural-disaster relief. It’s jarring to think, but the same department kidnapping citizens off our streets in the Pacific Northwest is also responsible for saving lives on our Gulf Coast as hurricane season ramps up. We can’t rid ourselves fast enough of the former, but we cannot risk going without the latter. This is why I submitted an amendment to the House appropriation package for DHS to include a study of how best to dismantle the department while safeguarding the essential services and protections the American people need. I intend to introduce the provision as a stand-alone bill as well. 

Ending DHS may be as complicated as it is necessary, but it’s time for us to take the first steps.

Norma J. Torres, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents California’s 35th Congressional District in the House of Representatives.

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