Ashcroft separates INS into enforcement, service bureaus

The Immigration and Naturalization Service will be split into enforcement and service branches as part of the agency's major restructuring plan, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Wednesday. The INS will be reorganized into a law enforcement bureau and a service bureau, with a clear chain of command within each bureau to increase accountability and improve agency performance, Ashcroft said at a press conference. INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar joined Ashcroft for the announcement. "The INS has suffered from insufficient accountability between field offices and the headquarters, and a lack of consistent operations and policies," Ashcroft said. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks underscored the agency's need to better control immigration, he said. Several of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks entered the country legally. Under the new management structure, which will be fully in place by fiscal 2003, the agency's 33 district offices will be reorganized to report to one of the two bureaus. An executive commissioner will lead the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement, which will oversee nine enforcement areas, including the agency's investigative offices, inspections of port areas and 21 Border Patrol sectors. Employees in the Bureau of Immigration Services will also report to an executive commissioner who will lead six service areas that will focus on processing applications for naturalization, green card renewals and other documents for immigrants. Employees in regional offices will report to one of the two executive commissioners, instead of multiple layers of management, Ziglar said. In August, during comments about the agency's reorganization, Ziglar said that some federal employees might be relocated under his reforms, but that he did not anticipate any layoffs. The agency plans to add more than 500 employees as part of the reorganization, according to Elaine Komis, an INS spokeswoman. "This is not a corporate downsizing," Komis said. "There will be opportunities for people to move into new areas." Ziglar will also appoint a director of restructuring to oversee the reorganization and an ombudsman to handle complaints involving the agency's enforcement bureau. The restructuring plan also calls on the agency to beef up its information technology and customer relations efforts. Ziglar thanked INS employees for helping to put together the restructuring plan. "We had people participating in focus groups and that sort of thing, and they are just as interested as the attorney general, the President, myself and the Congress in making fundamental reforms at INS so that we can do our job better," he said. The INS has long struggled to perform its dual, and often competing, missions. The agency is responsible for keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, and at the same time helping legal immigrants become citizens and get other benefits. For years, there have been suggestions in Congress and elsewhere that such opposing missions should not be housed under the same roof, especially since the agency faces an unprecedented level of illegal immigration and a record backlog of citizenship applications. Ziglar said the changes in the reorganization plan can be made without new legislation, but he pledged to continue to work with Congress to improve the agency's ability to meet its mission. Some lawmakers think that simply separating the agency's enforcement and service functions is not enough. Reps. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. and Walter Jones, R-N.C., among others, favor abolishing the INS and placing its enforcement duties into a new border security agency and putting its service functions elsewhere. "It is clear that if we are going to secure our borders and protect our country, then we must end INS as we know it, and form a new agency that has the ability and the will to enforce the law," Tancredo, who is chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, told reporters at a press conference last month on Capitol Hill. Ziglar is scheduled to testify on the restructuring plan Thursday afternoon at a House hearing.
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