Administration eyes revamp of INS structure

GAO report: Immigration Benefits: Several Factors Impede Timeliness of Application Processing

The Bush administration wants to restructure the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has been criticized for its management of immigration applications, to help it work more efficiently, Attorney General John Ashcroft told Congress last week.

Despite an influx of money in recent years, INS lacks adequate automated case management systems, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.

That and other problems have prompted the administration to propose splitting INS into two organizations — one focusing on detering illegal immigration and the other on serving legal immigrants — both reporting to a single official.

Ashcroft, testifying June 6 before the House Judiciary Committee, said he would like to have an INS director in place before working with Congress on such a proposal. The attorney general also told lawmakers that improving long-standing problems at INS is a top priority.

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

In last week's GAO report, auditors found that INS district offices, which handled about 45 percent of immigration applications in fiscal 2000, process most manually because they do not have an automated case management and tracking system.

INS' problems have mounted despite budget increases, GAO officials wrote in their report, "Immigration Benefits: Several Factors Impede Timeliness of Application Processing." INS' adjudication and naturalization program budget, which is composed largely of fees paid by applicants, has nearly quadrupled since fiscal 1994 to about $500 million.

Several lawmakers peppered Ashcroft with reports of problems from constituents unable to get help from INS.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has introduced the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act (H.R. 1562), which would replace INS with the Office of the Associate Attorney General for Immigration Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration Services and the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement.

Meanwhile, GAO officials said INS has taken efforts to improve the reliability of its automated systems and that it is preparing a strategy to guide its process re-engineering and information technology improvement efforts.

"We believe these efforts are steps in the right direction. Many of them, however, are still in the planning stages, so it is too early to tell whether and to what extent they will resolve INS' application workload problems," GAO officials said.

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, 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,, 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, 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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