Bush administration backs plan to break up INS

The Bush administration Wednesday changed course and offered support for House passage of a bill to restructure the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The bill is scheduled for a vote Thursday.

An Office of Management and Budget statement of administration policy said the bill (H.R. 3231) contains several "important" changes the administration would like to see, but indicated the administration would seek changes during a House-Senate conference. The House bill would create a high-level post in the Justice Department, where an associate attorney general would oversee immigration issues. Two new major bureaus would be established in the Justice Department--one with power over "citizenship and immigration services" and the other over enforcement.

"The administration is concerned with provisions of the bill that weaken the authority of the new associate attorney general for immigration affairs position in comparison to the authority of the existing INS commissioner position," the statement said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Attorney General John Ashcroft were expected to hold a joint news conference Thursday. The measure is expected to pass easily.

The Bush administration has opposed legislative efforts to overhaul the INS, preferring to pursue a plan for administrative reforms at the agency.

Last November, INS Commissioner James Ziglar and Ashcroft announced a major restructuring plan to split the agency into a law enforcement bureau and a service bureau. In December, Ziglar appointed long-time INS employee Richard B. Cravener to oversee the agency's reorganization.

Just last week, Ziglar announced that senior managers in field offices of the Border Patrol, an INS agency, would report directly to the head of the agency as part of the broader effort to improve accountability.

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