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Conservative org prepares aggressive plan for DHS overhaul if Republicans win White House in 2024

FIRST ON FOX: A project that is envisioning how a new Republican administration in 2025 should reshape the federal government is outlining how the Department of Homeland Security could either dismantle or radically reform the agency — which it says has become bloated and has lost sight of its mission.

The Heritage Foundation’s “Project 2025,” launching next week, is a new policy book to offer recommendations on how a future Republican president can begin to implement conservative changes from the moment they enter office.

The chapter on DHS, written by a team led by former assistant acting DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, argues that DHS has become “bloated, bureaucratic, expensive and [has] lost sight of its mission priorities.”

“DHS has also suffered from wokeness and weaponization by the left against Americans who the left perceives as its political opponents,” the document says.

The project says the best outcome would be the dismantling of DHS altogether, although it recognizes that political realities may prevent that.

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“It was itself a political creation,” Cuccinelli told Fox News Digital. “You look at how disparate the missions are within DHS, it’s a real substantial difference. And with 250,000 employees, it’s one of the most difficult management challenges in the U.S. government, in the world.”

The project envisions instead a stand-alone immigration agency at the Cabinet level made up of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with Health and Human Services’s Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review and Office of Immigration Litigation.

 An exterior view of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building in Washington D.C., United States on January 5, 2023. 

 An exterior view of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building in Washington D.C., United States on January 5, 2023.  (Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In other moves, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would be moved to the Transportation Department, along with Federal Emergency Management Agency — although that could also be moved separately to the Interior Dept.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a highly controversial agency within DHS over the year, would be privatized. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard would be moved to the DOJ or to the Pentagon in times of war, while the Secret Service would be split between DOJ and the Treasury.

However, since the project recognizes that it is unlikely to happen, it makes a number of recommendations for sweeping reform of the agency if it continues to exist, as well as a significant tightening of its mission.

“To truly secure the homeland, a conservative administration needs to return the department to the right mission, the right size, and the right budget. This would include re-organizing the department and shifting significant resources away from several supporting components to the essential operational components,” it said.

The project argues that the “bloated” DHS gives a future administration the opportunity to cut billions in spending. TSA can still be privatized, FEMA spending can be shifted to the states and unnecessary offices can be closed, while the communications function should be consolidated and reformed.

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It calls for the scaling down of the Coast Guard to match congressional budgeting and focus its scope on protecting U.S. resources and interests in U.S. waters. The Secret Service would also be narrowed down to focus almost entirely on protection-related issues. 

Reforms eyed for the border and detention include reducing the use of releasing migrants into the U.S. with Notices to Appear only for humanitarian situations, creating a permanent Title 42-style authority, raising credible fear standards raised and ending the Flores settlement agreement. The recommendations include restarting, and expanding the use of the horseback mounted Border Patrol — and clearing the records of the agents falsely accused of whipping migrants, while providing them with a formal apology from DHS.

Seperately, ICE would be reformed with the abolition of the T and U visas — for victims of trafficking and crime — as well as the stopping of closing out of pending immigration cases. Clearer guidance would be proposed explicitly mandating detention of illegal immigration.

On the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the project wants to narrow its funding and end its “mis/disinformation” efforts, while limiting its election security efforts to making sure states and localities have good cyber hygiene in hardware and software.

“The federal government cannot be the arbiter of truth,” it says.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cuccinelli, who led the team of approximately 30 experts in various fields who contributed to the chapter, said the purpose is to have an agenda “ready to roll” on Day One of a future Republican administration.

“We’ll be better prepared to the extent these suggestions are adopted on day one and even before day one — the day after the election — than anybody has ever been prepared before. It’s not even going to be a close one,” he said.

He said the effort was informed by not only how the Biden administration had used DHS, but also by challenges seen internally during the Trump administration securing permanent reforms on issues like legal immigration which meant a lot of the work done was “ripped out by the roots” shortly after President Biden was sworn in.

“That kind of lack of permanence is a real problem, and it’s something we want to fix,” he said.

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He also believes that when making deep reforms to government agencies, the right has a much bigger hill to climb than the left and so needs to be better prepared as a result.

“The left has done it to this degree, we believe, much more so than we have. Plus, the deep state is their friend… they’re allies. We have to be prepared to go in and do things in our policy in the face of a not particularly cooperative bureaucracy,” he warned.

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