The Office of the General Counsel comprises over 1,750 dedicated attorneys at headquarters and at operating components.
The acting general counsel for the Department is John Sandweg.
The Homeland Security Act defines the general counsel as the "chief legal officer of the Department." In this role, he is ultimately responsible for all of the Department's legal determinations and for overseeing all of its attorneys. The general counsel is also the Department's regulatory policy officer, managing the rulemaking program and ensuring that all Department of Homeland Security regulatory actions comply with relevant statutes and executive orders.
The Office of the General Counsel’s central tasks include:
- providing complete, accurate, and timely legal advice on possible courses of action for the Department;
- ensuring that Homeland Security policies are implemented lawfully, quickly, and efficiently;
- protecting the rights and liberties of any Americans who come into contact with the Department;
- facilitating quick responses to congressional requests for information; and
- representing the Department in venues across the country, including in the immigration courts of the United States.
The Office of the General Counsel is made up of lawyers at headquarters on the general counsel's immediate staff, and lawyers working in the operating components.
Headquarters. Each headquarters division is headed by an associate general counsel. Subdivisions within each headquarters division are headed by assistant general counsel:
- General Law. Provides legal advice and support on acquisition and procurement activities; labor and employment matters; appropriations and fiscal law issues; general tort and related claims; and environmental issues; and oversees the activities of the Board of Correction of Military Records.
- Immigration. Expertise in U.S. immigration laws, including deportation and removal, arrest and detention, national security, asylum applications and other remedies, refugee issues, benefit processing and adjudications, inspection and admissibility issues, visa adjudication and issuance, and immigration and federal court litigation.
- Intelligence. Expertise in authorities related to intelligence collection, analysis, dissemination; engagement with state, local, tribal and private sector entities; information sharing.
- Legal Counsel. Provides legal review, guidance, and support on significant litigation matters, including coordinating with Department of Justice and serves as the Department's expert on statutory authorities, including analyzing existing powers and assessing the impact of pending legislation. Provides legal support on privacy and civil rights and civil liberties issues, and responds to significant inquiries from Congress and GAO.
- National Protection and Programs. Provides legal support to the National Protection and Programs Directorate with specific sections devoted to chemical facility security, communications, cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, and US- VISIT.
- Operations and Enforcement. Expertise in operations, law enforcement, and emergency/incident management activities, including international information exchange, screening and watchlist issues, international agreements and arrangements, foreign investment and national security reviews.
- Regulatory Affairs. Leads the Department's rulemaking activities, coordinates review of proposed regulations, and ensures that all regulatory actions presented to the Secretary comply with constitutional and statutory restrictions and mandates.
- Technology Programs. Provides legal support for the Science and Technology Directorate, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and Office of Health Affairs.
- Ethics. Administers the financial disclosure program, coordinates and manages the Department’s ethics program, including providing legal advice, and provides liaison to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in the role of Designated Agency Ethics Official, a Secretarial appointee.
Components. Each operating component legal office is headed by a chief counsel or equivalent:
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for TSA is Francine Kerner. The responsibilities of the TSA chief counsel include providing legal advice to the commissioner and other senior TSA leaders on legal issues associated with the TSA mission, as well as overseeing both criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws relating to transportation security; conducting or managing litigation before courts or administrative tribunals; assisting in the development of TSA’s legislative and regulatory programs; interpreting applicable statutory or regulatory authority; helping to shape TSA’s legal posture in international matters, and advising TSA on implementing TSA security directives and necessary adjustments to operating procedures.
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for CBP is Alfonso Robles. The responsibilities of the CBP chief counsel include providing legal advice to the commissioner and other senior CBP leaders on legal issues associated with the CBP mission, as well as providing legal advice and support to all components of CBP; representing CBP in administrative hearings; providing litigation support to the Department of Justice; completing the administrative collection of civil fines and penalties; providing comprehensive legal services to all components of CBP; reviewing legislative and regulatory proposals; and providing legal training to operational staff.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for USCIS is Steve Legomsky. The responsibilities of the USCIS chief counsel include providing legal advice to the director and other senior USCIS leaders on legal issues associated with the USCIS mission, as well as providing legal support to USCIS components and the DOJ Office of Immigration Litigation; providing legal advice on the adjudication of applicants for temporary visa status, permanent residence, citizenship and asylum; offering legal education and training to USCIS personnel; reviewing legislative and regulatory proposals; representing USCIS in visa petition appeals and in administrative proceedings.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor. The principal legal advisor for ICE is Peter S. Vincent. The responsibilities of the principal legal advisor include providing legal advice to the assistant secretary and other senior ICE leaders on legal issues associated with the ICE mission, as well as representing the Department in all exclusion, deportation, and removal proceedings; prosecuting removal court cases; handling Board of Immigration Appeal cases; providing litigation support to U.S. Attorney Offices; assisting with removal order reinstatements, administrative removal orders, and expedited removals; reviewing legislative and regulatory proposals; providing legal training and ethics guidance to all ICE personnel; and representing ICE in court and administrative proceedings.
- U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for USSS is Donna L. Cahill. The responsibilities of the USSS chief counsel include providing legal advice to the director and other senior Secret Service leaders on legal issues associated with the Secret Service protective and investigative missions, and its administrative responsibilities, as well as providing support to the DOJ in their defense of claims against the Secret Service and its employees; preparing comments on proposed legislation, draft testimony, and policy; directing the agency’s ethics program; reviewing documents related to assets forfeiture; making determinations concerning the release of information under the FOIA, the Privacy Act, civil/criminal discovery, subpoena or other request; and representing the Secret Service in administrative hearings.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for FEMA is Brad J. Kieserman. The responsibilities of the FEMA chief counsel include providing legal advice to the administrator and other senior FEMA leaders on legal issues associated with the FEMA mission, as well as interpreting applicable statutory or regulatory authority with respect to disaster and emergency assistance, national preparedness, National Continuity Programs, the National Flood Insurance Program and the National Response Framework; conducting or managing litigation before courts and administrative tribunals; providing legal advice on fiscal law issues, procurement actions, FOIA and Privacy Act; reviewing legislative and regulatory proposals; and providing training and counseling through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program to reduce complaints against the agency and improve workplace communication and coordination.
- U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Office of the Judge Advocate General. The judge advocate general for the USCG is Rear Admiral Frederick J. Kenney. The responsibilities of the judge advocate general include delivering legal services throughout the Coast Guard to support mission execution, managing the Coast Guard Legal Program, and providing legal advice to the commandant and other senior leaders in areas including international and maritime law, including drug and alien migrant interdiction, counterterrorism and defense operations, marine safety and facilitating maritime commerce, and protecting living marine resources and the environment; military justice; litigation and claims; legislation and rulemaking; environmental law; legal assistance; and major systems acquisition.
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Office of the Chief Counsel. The chief counsel for FLETC is David Brunjes. The responsibilities of the FLETC chief counsel include providing legal advice to the Director and other senior FLETC leaders on legal issues associated with the FLETC mission, as well as representing FLETC in Equal Employment Opportunity and employment disciplinary cases; representing FLETC in administrative hearings; providing legal advice and assistance in procurement related matters and representing FLETC in bid protest and contract disputes; processing and adjudicating claims under the Military and Civilian Employees Compensation Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act; providing legal advice and assistance on fiscal law issues and legislative matters; providing legal advice on information/intellectual law matters to include copyright, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act; and providing legal training for federal, state, local and international law enforcement officers attending basic and advanced training at FLETC’s four domestic and two international training sites.
- By e-mail:
- By mail or phone:
Office of the General Counsel
Department of Homeland Security
Mail Stop 3650
Washington, DC 20528