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The department responsible for overseeing and enforcing immigration laws is the INS or Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is an arm of the Department of Justice.
Generally, the American Embassy in your home country can give you a visa, which is stamped into your passport, that allows you to enter into the United States as a tourist and also allows you to stay up to 90 days. It is the INS that is responsible for keeping violent criminals or people with criminal history from coming into the United States.
People with a history of murder, robbery, rape, forgery, burglary, welfare fraud, tax evasion or drug related issues are not permitted to enter US soil.
Also, those persons associated with terrorist activities or those having communicable disease are not allowed to enter. It is also the job of the INS to screen those persons attempting entry into the US who they feel are lying about why they're coming onto American soil.