Administration eyes INS split

Ashcroft's prepared testimony before the House Judiciary Committee

The Bush administration will propose splitting the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two organizations — one focusing on enforcement and the other on service, Attorney General John Ashcroft told lawmakers Wednesday.

Ashcroft, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, said there is no timetable for proposing a bill, but he said he would like to have an INS director in place before finalizing the plan. The attorney general told lawmakers, however, that improving long-standing problems at INS is a top priority.

Just this week, the General Accounting Office reported that INS does not even know how long it takes to process applications from legal aliens largely because of inadequate information systems.

The INS does not have an adequate automated case management and tracking system, the report said.

The Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget refers to the idea of creating the two divisions. The two parts of the INS would have separate chains of command but both would likely report to a single policy official.

"I support splitting the agency in two as a way to draw a bright line between the need to deter illegal immigration and to assure the millions of legal immigrants and new citizens the smooth and orderly service they deserve," Ashcroft testified.

Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) called the INS "one of the most dysfunctional agencies in all of government.... One can't digest all of the inspector general and General Accounting Office reports on the problems that plague the INS."

Several lawmakers peppered the attorney general with reports of problems from constituents who are unable to get help from the INS. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said it can take 18 months just to get an interview for citizenship.

"This nation is challenged by the flood of illegal immigrants, and we don't properly serve legal immigrants," Sensenbrenner said. "Too often the INS is part of the problem, and hopefully we will start to hear about the solutions."

Lawmakers, however, expressed concerns about plans to divide INS. They said their concern about the plan is that the service branch of a divided INS would get shortchanged.

"We need two entities that are well-funded, but we need a singular head," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Jackson-Lee has proposed the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act (H.R. 1562), which would replace the INS with the Office of the Associate Attorney General for Immigration Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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