Since 1999, the European Commission has been responsible for ‘integrating’ immigration and asylum goals into the EU's external relations. This article explores how different Directorates-General have responded to this requirement. Rejecting prevalent rationalist theories, it draws on organisational sociology to argue that administrative organisations are preoccupied with internal social and psychological tasks, and only selectively read and respond to signals from their political environment. Depending on characteristics of the organisation and policy area, one can hypothesise four ideal-typical responses: full adaptation, evasion, institutional decoupling, and reinterpretation. An analysis of Commission responses suggests that DG Justice, Liberty and Security fully adapted to the agenda, while DG External Relations adopted a strategy of institutional decoupling. DG Development shifted from initial evasion to reinterpretation, contributing to the rather incoherent mix of goals that emerged in the 2005 Global Approach. The article considers the implications of this account for theories of policy change.