Senate panel weighs INS restructuring

Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., Thursday convened the first in a series of hearings to examine Immigration and Naturalization Service restructuring, while the counterpart subcommittee in the House approved a bill authorizing $82 million to help the agency clear its application backlog.

"I think the [Senate] subcommittee needs to take a step back and to start with first principles before determining exactly how the immigration functions performed by the government should best be organized," Abraham said.

Abraham has not endorsed any proposal and will most likely introduce his own plan early next year, an aide said. Future Senate hearings are planned to examine the agency's enforcement function.

During the Senate hearing, which focused on the agency's record of customer service for immigrants, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner outlined her agency's proposal to divide its now- combined service and enforcement operations into separate "chains of command" that would be coordinated at the top of the INS.

"The issue of customer service has not gotten as much attention as it deserves," Meissner said.

Meissner acknowledged her agency's great backlog in cases and cited "an avalanche of applications" that followed a new law implemented in 1995, which allowed people to adjust their status through INS rather than through State Department consulates.

She said overhauling the naturalization process has made the delays worse, but said the INS has made progress with new fingerprinting centers, phone centers and other improvements. However, she added that the INS' service function continues to operate understaffed and underfunded.

The INS restructuring proposal would replace regional and district INS offices with local offices charged with a singular purpose.

In addition to the INS plan, House Judiciary Immigration and Claims Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, also is considering separate and more far-reaching proposals sponsored by Reps. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.

On Thursday, Smith's subcommittee by a party-line 5-2 vote approved $82 million in additional funds to help the INS clear its backlog of processing in applications, while also requiring the INS to verify the good moral character of applicants.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.